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Black History Essay Contest Winner: Adhrut Kulkarni

Adhrut Kulkarni
Adhrut Kulkarni

This spring we're airing the winning entries from the Black History Essay Contest, sponsored by the City of Bloomington and its Human Relations Commission.

Here is the essay from second-place winner Adhrut Kulkarni from Bloomington Junior High School. Learn more about the other winners and the Human Relations Commission.

"Throughout the years, segregation has been a huge problem in our society. Some African Americans, however, rose to the occasion, and fought for their rights. Jesse Owens was one of these people. 

Jesse Owens was one of the greatest athletes to ever live, and was once known as the fastest man alive.  Not only was he known for his athletic achievements, he was also known for standing up against racial inequality. When he competed in the 1935 Big Ten track meet, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, he broke five world records, and equaled a sixth, all in the time of forty-five minutes. In the 1936 Berlin Olympics, in which Adolf Hitler looked to prove that African Americans were physically inferior to white people, Jesse Owens proved him wrong by winning four gold medals, and all the while, the German spectators were cheering him on. Jesse Owens was very influential, and made a huge impact on our society.

After winning four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Owens was allegedly shunned by Adolf Hitler, when Hitler shook hands with all German participants, but excluded Jesse. However, as Owens later remarked, when he returned to America, the President did not invite him to shake hands either. After the Olympics, however, Owens was unable to find a job, as the Jim Crow laws enforced in the south made it extremely hard to get a job. Owens was forced to resort to taking jobs such as a gas station attendant, playground janitor, and the manager of a dry-cleaning firm. Though he tried to take endorsement offers for money, this caused US athletic officials to withdraw his amateur status, ending his career. He continued to take small jobs, such as racing thoroughbreds, racing amateurs, and becoming a running instructor for the New York Mets. Despite all of the segregation and discrimination he faced, he kept pushing on, trying to make his way through life. 

When I first read about Jesse Owens, I was thunderstruck by all the records he broke, and everything he accomplished, all while living in a segregated country. I was inspired by the way he kept pushing through, even when things got tough. When I feel like giving up, I think about how Owens pushed through, and I try to keep on going, the way he did. He is a really big inspiration to me, and thinking about him motivates me and makes me push myself. 

Jesse Owens was an amazing athlete. In under forty-five minutes, he demolished five world records and tied a sixth. He then proceeded to win four gold medals, while competing in a discriminated country. He accomplished so much in his athletic career, but when he returned to America, he was greeted with more discrimination. Despite all of this, he kept pushing on. He keeps inspiring all of us every day, and is remembered as one of the greatest athletes to ever live, and as an important part of the fight for racial equality."