The film Race tells the story of Jesse Owens’ victories at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
Read more about the film in our article.
Jesse Owens’ extraordinary achievements are a great topic both in collège and lycée, where it fits well into a Mythes et héros theme.
This video from the film’s website mixes real footage with images from the film, and gives a nice mini-biography of Owens. It’s usable from A2 (focussing on the images) and is particularly appropriate in 3ème and lycée, where the history curriculum covers the World Wars and civil rights.
The biography on the Olympic site is concise, and focuses on his sporting exploits. It’s easy enough for an A2-level class.
The Jesse Owens Foundation provides university scholarships for students. The biography of Owens from the Foundation site is relatively succinct at least up until the Olympics. Usable from B1.
Audio and Video
This is a nine-minute radio programme about Owens from the BBC World Service. You can download it. It includes little snippets of Owens speaking. He is very clear and easy to understand.
This video from the International Olympic Committee focuses on another aspect of Owens’ Olympics that is also in Race: Owens’ competition, and friendship, with the German star and his main rival in the long jump, Luz Long.
When Owens committed two fouls in the long jump final (going past the jump-off mark, so his jumps didn’t count), he had just one last chance to jump without fouling, or go out of the competition. The two athletes had great respect for each other and Luz decided to help his friend. He placed his towel on the ground in front of the jump line, to give Owens a point to aim for. It worked. Owens took gold, relegating Long to silver. Yet the German athlete was the first to congratulate Owens, and the men remained friends until Long died during WW2.