Jesse Owens of Ohio State and Eulace Peacock of Temple University at the Penn Relays, Franklin Field, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Credit Line
John W. Mosley Photograph Collection, Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, PA

Eulace Peacock (a sophomore at Temple University) and Jesse Owens (a sophomore at Ohio State) were track and field stars and major rivals in the decade before World War II. Here Mosley focuses on the two competitors shaking hands, perhaps having just completed a race in the Penn Relays. Their extended arms create a v-like shape that brings attention to the spectators in the background.

The story of the rivalry between Eulace Peacock (1914–1996) and Jesse Owens (1913–1980) is a largely unknown and compelling tale. Both were outstanding athletes, born in rural Alabama eleven months apart, sons of sharecroppers who migrated north during the Great Migration. Peacock and his family settled in New Jersey; Owens and his family in Cleveland, Ohio. Both were gifted sprinters, relay runners, and long jumpers.

In 1935, the year of this photograph, Peacock and Owens competed against each other on ten occasions, with Peacock defeating Owens seven times. Both were competitive hopefuls for the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. However, Peacock tore his hamstring during a college championship event at the Penn Relays in April that year, making him unable to qualify.

The 1936 Summer Olympics were highly controversial. Adolph Hitler, the leader of the Nazi Party and German Chancellor from 1933 to 1945, criticized the United States for including black athletes on its Olympic team and expected the Games to be a display of white (Aryan) supremacy. The United States won eleven gold medals in all, six of them by black athletes. Owens became the first American track and field athlete to win four gold medals in one Olympics (the 100 meter, long jump, 200 meter, and 400- meter relay) and broke two Olympic records.

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