Great Depression Cut wages, growing unemployment, poverty, and suffering were unforgettable experiences during the Great Depression of the thirties. Many people learned to face these hard times with the help of famous sports figures. They gave hope and to many people pride in what they stood for to them. One of these great sports figures who helped Americans was boxer Joe Louis. In 1936 he fought the world champion Max Schmeling and had his first lose. Max Schmeling was a German boxer and the Nazis equated his victory over Joe Louis as a Nazi superiority over American democracy.
Once again the two boxers, Joe Louis and Max Schmeling, fought in 1938 and this time Joe Louis won in the first round. This was an enormous lift for Americans. It was a victory for democracy. Joe Louis was also an inspiration to the African American people. He was a famous African American boxer and had beaten a German boxer who was as Hitler believed the perfect race. This gave the African Americans self-respect and pride in who they were.
African Americans pointed with pride to athletes like Joe Louis, who was the world heavyweight boxing champion. (Cayton, Perry, Winkler, 764 ) Louis also went on to become a hero for the war effort and gave inspirational speeches. Jesse Owens great accomplishments on the track field made him one of the most famous in history. While on the Ohio State University track team in 1935 he set a world record in the broad jump (26 feet 8 1/4 ). In 1936 he set a new world record in the 100m.
dash,(10.2 sec.). In 1936 as a member of the U.S. track team at the Olympic games in Berlin, Jesse Owens won four gold medals and set more new world records. This is an important moral buster to the American people, white and black, because once again it showed Nazis were not a superior race. An African American man had won four gold medals.
This was humiliating and angered Adolf Hitler . His paramont victory at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin was made even more memorable when Adolf Hitler refused to award Owens his four gold medals because he was black. ( Encyclopedia 97 ) This was as much a victory for the American people as for Owens. It was especially important to the African Americans because it was an acknowledgement of his Olympic victories because he was black. Owens also helped the community by playing an active role in the youth athletic programs.
An important athlete to the women of the thirties was Babe Didrikson Zaharias, the greatest woman athlete in the first half of the twentieth century.. (encyclopedia 97) She excelled in every sport she played, swimming, basketball, track and field, and golf. In the 1932 Olympic games she set records in the javelin throw and the 80m. hurdle. Between 1936 and 1954 she won every woman's golf tournament she entered.
Babe Didrikson was a ray of light for women who until this time really hadnt been able to really take part in sports. It made women proud and gave them someone to look up to. In conclusion the thirties were hard times but thanks to many great sport figures like Joe Louis, Jesse Owens, and Babe Didrikson Zaharias life had some moments of great pride and joy. People were allowed to feel good about themselves whether they were black, white, or woman. They gave us recognition as a united group, Americans who were notice around the world.