The world may be familiar with the story of Olympic athlete Jesse Owens, the African-American track and field star who won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games, possibly because of the recent feature film about his triumph entitled “Race,” starring Stephan James. However, the world might not know about the 17 other African American athletes who also competed in 1936. The new documentary “Olympic Pride, American Prejudice” tells the story of those forgotten 17 athletes and how they defied Jim Crow and Adolf Hitler by demonstrating the myth of white supremacy. Though their stories might not be well known, they are heroes in their own right, and their presence on the world stage was an important precursor to the American Civil Rights Movement.
Narrated by actor Blair Underwood (“L.A. Law”), “Olympic Pride, American Prejudice” weaves rarely seen archival footage with interviews of Carl Lewis, Isiah Thomas, Anita DeFrantz, Ambassador Andrew Young, and Lonnie Bunch III. It also includes the families of the 1936 Black Olympians, German 1936 Olympics spectators, and sports historians. All of these key interviews discuss the importance of such a monumental event and how it played a crucial role in the fight for equal rights in sports.
Director Deborah Riley Draper (“Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution”) says her film “is a deeply inspiring and emotional film that examines race, sports and implicit bias during the 1930s through the eyes and voices of 18 young Black Olympians, who laid the groundwork for so many movements. Their experiences are as relevant today as they were 80 years ago.”
“Olympic Pride, American Prejudice” enjoyed a sold-out world premiere as an official selection in the documentary category at the Los Angeles Film Festival. It will be released in theaters on August 5th at Cinema Village in New York and at the Laemmle Monica Film Center in Los Angeles. For tickets, head to the Cinema Village and Laemmle websites.