Last Tuesday I was able to watch the majority of Olympic Pride, American Prejudice sponsored by the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. I say “majority” because my first screening (we watched Desk Set from 1957) ended at 5:45 whereas the AJFF film started at 5:30. When I arrived, the AJFF people scanned me in and opened the theater doors for me – super nice. The documentary had already started and the theater room was mostly full, the majority of people there either students or middle-aged. Olympic Pride, American Prejudice was about the 18 African Americans who went to the 1936 Olympic games in Nazi Berlin, Germany. The 16 men and 2 women in the group stood up for African Americans not only across the United States, but across the world. They faced discrimination at home and were considered second class citizens but were given the welcome wagon when they arrived in Germany, especially the men. The Nazi Party’s beliefs of a superior Aryan race and antisemitism made it all the more interesting how the African Americans were more welcomed and “accepted” in Nazi Germany than they were in their own country.
The best and worst part of this documented history, in my opinion, was the actual competition of countries. Earlier I said that 18 African Americans “went” to the 1936 Olympic games because not all of them participated. I loved watching old footage of the games and getting to see the African Americans kick ass, take names, and show the world who they really are by taking home 8 gold medals between the 18 of them. However, it was extremely frustrating and heartbreaking because some of the African American athletes who trained all their life (or at least the last 4 years) for this moment were pulled from their event and replaced by a white athlete simply because of the color of their skin. I vividly remember watching and almost crying I was so upset, even though this is old news and it happened in the 1930’s, it’s still just so wrong. I mean, working that hard just to see it all slip between your fingers, just because you were a different race? They couldn’t even say how they felt about it because it might get them in trouble, or worse. Totally infuriating.
On another note, I highly recommend watching this documentary because it gives you the facts along with feelings you didn’t think you could get from watching a simple documentary about the Olympics. If you would like more information on the film, click here. I would also check out the song used for the end of the documentary: “Find My Victory” by Tony Highwater (super moving and emotional and feel-good).