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Fact-Checking Movie “History”with Gale Resources

Posted on March 14, 2016

By Traci Cothran

I love the way movies inspired by historical events bring the past so vividly to life, especially for students who have never heard of these past events or notable people. But sometimes films stray from the facts in favor of presenting a stronger cinematic experience. I watched “Race” – the story about Jesse Owens and the 1936 Olympics – and wondered what was factual and what was “movie magic.” Students can use their brains and fingertips to search Gale databases –  like U.S. History In Context, Students Resources In Context, and Research In Context – to find out the truth, by investigating the following:

  • Following Jesse Owens’ gold medal wins, did Hitler shake Owens’ hand? (Bonus question: Did US President FDR ever welcome Owens to the White House?)
  • Were Owens and other African-American students allowed to live in student housing at Ohio State University?
  • Did German athlete Luz Long mark the takeoff area to help Owens qualify for the long jump?
  • Was that part in the movie where Owens had a romance with another woman (not his future wife) during college factual?
  • Did Owens capture 4 world records within 45 minutes at the 1935 Big Ten Track & Field Championship?
  • Why were US sprinters Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller scratched from the 4 x 100 event?

For further research and thought:

  • What was Jesse Owens’ life like after the 1936 Olympics? Was he still subject to segregation and discrimination?
  • Were Owens, Glickman and Stoller able to compete in the 1940 Olympic games?
  • What other track and field athletes were inspired by Jesse Owens (see Jesse Owens Award)?

History, like life, doesn’t always provide crystal clear answers, but the ability to conduct research to separate truth from fiction is a critical one for students today.

Discover more about this topic with Gale’s In Context products.


[alert-info]Traci J. Cothran

About the Author

Traci Cothran is a manager in Gale’s Database Program and a history buff, so she can often be found watching videos from the early 1900s in Gale’s World History In Context.  


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