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AfriGeneas Writers Forum

Remembering the Berlin Olympics and Beyond

Hello Afrigeneas Writers:

Last night's broadcast of the opening of the Olympics reminded me of African-American athletes who've won the gold, silver and bronze medals for decades. The 1936 Olympics in Berlin marked the triumph of African-Americans over the evil racist propaganda of Hitler and his Nazi henchmen. Hitler's refusal to shake Jesse Owens' hand left little doubt to his hatred of people of color.

There were 18 African-American athletes who competed in the Berlin Olympics. They won 25% of America's medals. The United States Holocaust Museum's website has an exceptional group of photos of the 1936 Olympics along with clips from African-American newspapers. You can also listen to the voice of John Woodruff who won the 800 meter race.

The Museum's website also includes later documented histories of people of color who were on both sides of the concentration camp walls. I discovered a photo of an African man from the Belgian Congo who was an inmate at Auschwitz. His gaze is blurred with sadness.

The URL page of this photo is:

A great friend of mine US Army Colonel Dick Seibel was the liberator of Mauthausen. I asked him if there were any African-American inmates at the death camp. Yes he said, and told me that his scouts found an African-American staff sergeant who had been captured in Italy. What an irony! During that time, the legendary African-American 761st Tank Battalion had liberated a sub-camp of Mauthausen at Gunskirchen.

There are other stories of WW II that will remind us that African-Americans were never on the sidelines of history. Sometimes we were victims but in most cases we triumphed over evil either through self-determination or as soldiers in war.

Enjoy our history.

The URL is below.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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