Jesse Owens Lesson for Kids: Biography, Facts & Timeline

Instructor: Ashley Davis

Ashley has taught first, fourth, and fifth grades and holds a master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction.

There are many notable American figures, but how did Jesse Owens become one of them? This lesson will focus on the life and accomplishments of Jesse Owens.

History In the Making

Each day becomes a part of our history. Events and moments viewed as simple and ordinary can impact our lives, even if we don't realize it at the time. You never know when one simple action or decision will become a part of American history. Jesse Owens' life is a perfect example of this!

Humble Beginnings

Born on September 12, 1913 to Henry and Emma Alexander Owens, James Cleveland (J.C.) became the seventh child in the family. His father was a sharecropper, a tenant farmer who gives the landowner a portion of his crops in exchange for the use of the land, and his grandparent were former slaves. Despite chronic childhood illnesses, Owens was expected to work on the family's Alabama farm land. At a young age, he was picking many pounds of cotton daily to help support his family.

At the age of nine, Owen's parents made a change that set history making into motion. They moved the family from Alabama to Cleveland, Ohio. Owen's world changed from a slow pace and one-room schoolhouse to a fast-paced large city with larger schools and strict teachers. It was here that Owens earned the nickname Jesse - a nickname that would one day go down in history books.

Jesse Finds His Passion

In 1928, while attending junior high school, Jesse Owens began to a make a name for himself in track and field. During this time, he set records in both the high and long jumps.

He continued to set records in high school, winning the Ohio state championship three years in a row. During his senior year, he set high school world records in the 100 yard and 220 yard dashes. He also set a world record in the long jump during this time. Can you imagine setting world records before you even finish high school?

His stellar performance got the attention of many colleges. Owens would go onto attend Ohio State University, home of the Buckeyes. While attending college, he continued to set world records in track and field. In 1935 alone he won 42 total track and field events in various competitions. His athletic ability earned him yet another nickname, ''Buckeye Bullet''.

Jesse Owens
Jesse Owens

Going For Gold

In 1936, during a time of deep-rooted segregation, a way of separating people by a characteristic like race, Jesse Owens, a young African American, headed to the Olympic games. The 1936 Olympics were held in Berlin, Germany, which was under the rule of Adolf Hitler. Hitler believed the Germans were a supreme race, and expressed his disgust with America for including African-American athletes like Owens in the games.

Jesse Owens and Teammates at the 1936 Olympics
Jesse Owens

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