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Tuesday, May 1 at 8 p.m. Jesse Owens: American Experience

(Rochester, NY) – It is hard to imagine a more politically charged atmosphere than the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Originally opposed to the idea of the games, German Chancellor Adolf Hitler was convinced by his propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels that they were the perfect opportunity to showcase the superiority of Aryan athletes. Hitler presided over the opening day ceremonies, whipping the crowds into a frenzy of excitement. On August 3, when Jesse Owens stepped into the massive new Olympic Stadium in Berlin, the crowd went silent with anticipation, sitting on the edge of their seats to see the much-talked-about track star from America compete against the Germans. Jesse Owens: American Experience, premiering Tuesday, May 1, 2012 at 8 p.m. on WXXI-TV/HD (DT21.1/cable 1011 and 11), chronicles the story of an record-setting Olympic hero whose true triumph turned out to be surviving in the midst of adversity at home.

As an athlete Jesse Owens could compete — and win — against any man. But once he stepped off the track the same would not hold true. “The life of Jesse Owens is a cautionary tale of the ephemeral life of an athlete,” says Mark Samels, Executive Producer of American Experience. “Almost immediately after winning his four gold medals in the Olympics, Owens is moved to the margins of American life and our attention is turned away from him. He’s a celebrated athlete but he’s also a neglected figure in our lives. And I think, in a way, his story is an emblematic story about sports in America.”

Credit: Courtesy of WGBH
Pictured: Jesse Owens

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