Review: Olympic Pride, American Prejudice

15 Jun 1936 --- Original caption: 6/15/1936-New York, New York- These are the Olympic athletes who will do their stint for Uncle Sam in the big games in Berlin. Left to right rear: Dave Albritton, ans Cornelius Johnson, record high jumpers; Tidye Pickett, woman track star; Ralph Metcalfe, sprinter; Jim Clark boxer and Matthew Robinson, sprinter. In front are John Terry (left) weight lifter and John Brooks, Broadjumper. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Olympic Pride, American Prejudice screens on April 6 at 5 p.m. at Hanesbrands Theatre.

In 1936, 18 African-American athletes participated in the Summer Olympics in Berlin, the most notorious sporting event ever staged. Of those 16 men and two women, only Jesse Owens is remembered.

The documentary Olympic Pride, American Prejudice tells the story of the Olympians’ lives during the Jim Crow era in the United States, their 10-day sail to Berlin, and the friendships, celebrity and prejudice they experienced overseas.

The film begins with backgrounds of the 18 athletes — often through interviews with their children — as well as the background of the rise of the Third Reich and Nazi Germany.

Along with extensive video and photographs of the black athletes’ challenges within and beyond the Olympics, the documentary turns to black historians and scholars for analysis.

Throughout its narrative, Olympic Pride, American Prejudice doesn’t shy away from the oppression and appropriation of black athletes in the United States, nor the concealed genocide the Third Reich had begun to choreograph in Germany.

Importantly, the film addresses how the United States treated these athletes upon their return; Mack Robinson, the older brother of Jackie Robinson, came back with a silver medal, yet he could only find a job sweeping the streets at night.

Those streets were often cold enough that he had to wear his Olympic jacket to stay warm.

Joel Sronce

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