What did the American Black athletes in the 1936 Olympics mean to America at the time?
Paradoxically, black athletes were seen as great examples of American democracy and as a rebuke to Hitler's racist Nazism even as African Americans were oppressed and segregated in the United States.
During the 1930s, African Americans were still segregated in the United States. It was only about a decade since lynching had been common in the South. Even so, Americans took pride in the accomplishments of African American athletes in the Berlin Olympics. They felt that the victories of such athletes showed that the American democratic system was superior to that of Hitler and the Nazis. Thus, the African American athletes were a source of national pride and were seen as proof of the superiority of democracy.
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