Obama welcomes relatives of 1936 African-American Olympians

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 29:  Members of the U.S. Paralympic team leave the North Portico after an East Room event at the White House September 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcome the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House to honor their participation and success in the Rio Olympic Games this year.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Members of the U.S. Paralympic team leave the North Portico after an East Room event at the White House September 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcome the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House to honor their participation and success in the Rio Olympic Games this year. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 29:  Members of the U.S. Paralympic team leave the East Room after an event at the White House September 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcome the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House to honor their participation and success in the Rio Olympic Games this year.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Members of the U.S. Paralympic team leave the East Room after an event at the White House September 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcome the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House to honor their participation and success in the Rio Olympic Games this year. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Tommie Smith, John Carlos
1968 US Olympic athletes Tommie Smith, right, and John Carlos, left, stand as they are recognized by President Barack Obama during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, where the president honored the 2016 United States Summer Olympic and Paralympic Teams. Smith and Carlos extended their gloved hands skyward in racial protest during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” after Smith received the gold and Carlos the bronze medal in the 200 meter run at the Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City 1968. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 29:  U.S. President Barack Obama speaks as Josh Brunais and Vice President Joe Biden stand by during an East Room event at the White House September 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcome the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House to honor their participation and success in the Rio Olympic Games this year.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks as Josh Brunais and Vice President Joe Biden stand by during an East Room event at the White House September 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcome the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House to honor their participation and success in the Rio Olympic Games this year. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Simone Biles
President Barack Obama, with first lady Michelle Obama and Olympic gold medal gymnast Simone Biles speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, after being presented with a surf board signed by the U.S. 2016 Olympians during a ceremony honoring the members of the 2016 United States Summer Olympic and Paralympic Teams. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Barack Obama, Simone Biles
President Barack Obama shares a laugh with US Olympics gymnast Simone Biles as they wait to take the stage in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, for a ceremony where the president honored the 2016 United States Summer Olympic and Paralympic Teams. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Barack Obama, Simone Biles
President Barack Obama leans over to speak to US Olympics gymnast Simone Biles in the East Room the White House in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, during a ceremony where he honored members of the 2016 United States Summer Olympic and Paralympic Teams. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Members of the 2016 United States Summer Olympic and Paralympic Teams sit on the carpet in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, before the start of a ceremony where President Barack Obama honored them. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Members of the 2016 United States Summer Olympic and Paralympic Teams sit on the carpet in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, before the start of a ceremony where President Barack Obama honored them. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 29:  Members of the Paralympic team head to East Room of the White House on September 29, 2016  in Washington, DC.  President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama honored U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes for their participation and success in this years Games in Rio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Members of the Paralympic team head to East Room of the White House on September 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama honored U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes for their participation and success in this years Games in Rio. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 29:  John Carlos, left, and Tommie Smith, right, 1968 U.S. Olympians, attend an East Room event at the White House September 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcome the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House to honor their participation and success in the Rio Olympic Games this year.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
John Carlos, left, and Tommie Smith, right, 1968 U.S. Olympians, attend an East Room event at the White House September 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcome the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House to honor their participation and success in the Rio Olympic Games this year. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 29:  U.S. President Barack Obama hugs Olympian Simone Biles during an East Room event at the White House September 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcome the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House to honor their participation and success in the Rio Olympic Games this year.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama hugs Olympian Simone Biles during an East Room event at the White House September 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcome the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House to honor their participation and success in the Rio Olympic Games this year. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Barack Obama,
The families of 1936 Summer Olympians, foreground, including the family of four-time Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens, are recognized as they sit in the audience in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, during a ceremony where President Barack Obama honored the 2016 United States Summer Olympic and Paralympic Teams. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

John Carlos
1968 Olympic athlete John Carlos, left, speaks with members of the 2016 United States Summer Paralympic Team following a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, where President Barack Obama honored the 2016 United States Summer Olympic and Paralympic Teams. Carlos, along with athlete Tommie Smith extended their gloved hands skyward in racial protest during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” after Smith received the gold and Carlos the bronze medal in the 200 meter run at the Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City 1968. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Katie Ledeck
Olympic gold medal swimmer Katie Ledecky mingles with fellow Olympians in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, prior to a start of a ceremony where President Barack Obama honored members of the 2016 United States Summer Olympic and Paralympic Teams. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Allyson Felix, Connor Fields, Katie Ledecky, Brad Snyder, Tatyana McFadden
Olympic gold medal winner swimmer Katie Ledecky, center, accompanied by, from left, Olympic runner Allyson Felix, Olympic BMX rider Connor Fields, Paralympic Swimmer and Navy veteran Brad Snyder, and Paralympic wheelchair racer Tatyana McFadden, speaks outside the White House in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, following a ceremony where President Barack Obama honored the Olympics teams. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 29:  Members of the U.S. Paralympic team leave the North Portico after an East Room event at the White House September 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcome the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House to honor their participation and success in the Rio Olympic Games this year.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 29:  Members of the U.S. Paralympic team leave the East Room after an event at the White House September 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcome the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House to honor their participation and success in the Rio Olympic Games this year.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Tommie Smith, John Carlos
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 29:  U.S. President Barack Obama speaks as Josh Brunais and Vice President Joe Biden stand by during an East Room event at the White House September 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcome the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House to honor their participation and success in the Rio Olympic Games this year.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Simone Biles
Barack Obama, Simone Biles
Barack Obama, Simone Biles
Members of the 2016 United States Summer Olympic and Paralympic Teams sit on the carpet in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, before the start of a ceremony where President Barack Obama honored them. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 29:  Members of the Paralympic team head to East Room of the White House on September 29, 2016  in Washington, DC.  President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama honored U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes for their participation and success in this years Games in Rio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 29:  John Carlos, left, and Tommie Smith, right, 1968 U.S. Olympians, attend an East Room event at the White House September 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcome the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House to honor their participation and success in the Rio Olympic Games this year.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 29:  U.S. President Barack Obama hugs Olympian Simone Biles during an East Room event at the White House September 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcome the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House to honor their participation and success in the Rio Olympic Games this year.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Barack Obama,
John Carlos
Katie Ledeck
Allyson Felix, Connor Fields, Katie Ledecky, Brad Snyder, Tatyana McFadden

WASHINGTON (AP) — Relatives of Jesse Owens and America’s 17 other black athletes from the 1936 Olympics were welcomed to the White House on Thursday by President Barack Obama for the acknowledgement they didn’t receive along with their white counterparts 80 years ago.

Along with the relatives of the 1936 African-American Olympians, gloved-fist protesters Tommie Smith and John Carlos and members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams met the president and first lady Michelle Obama. Obama congratulated the Rio athletes, thanked Smith and Carlos for waking up Americans in 1968 and praised 1936 Olympians who made a statement in front of Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany.

After running down a list of accomplishments of U.S. athletes in Rio, Obama singled out some people who “paved the way” for the current diverse Olympic team, including Owens, Smith and Carlos.

Owens winning four gold medals and being snubbed by Hitler is a piece of American history, but Obama made sure to note that the accomplishments at the 1936 Berlin Olympics weren’t just about him.

“It was other African-American athletes in the middle of Nazi Germany under the gaze of Adolf Hitler than put a lie to notions of racial superiority — whooped ’em and taught them a thing or two about democracy and taught them a thing or two about the American character,” Obama said. “We’re honored to have many of their families here today.”

Eighteen family members were in attendance, representing nine 1936 Olympians. Owens, Ralph Metcalfe, Jack Wilson, John Brooks, Tidye Pickett, Louise Stokes, James LuValle, Fritz Pollard Jr., John Woodruff, Mack Robinson, Dave Albritton, Archie Williams, Cornelius Johnson, James Clark, Howell King, Art Oliver, Willis Johnson and John Terry combined for 14 of America’s 56 medals in Berlin.

Sprinter Allyson Felix, who won gold in Rio in the 400 and 1,600-meter relays and silver in the 400 and has nine Olympic medals, said afterward she was glad to meet some of the relatives of 1936 Olympians and hear their stories.

“It’s been just so moving, so inspiring,” Felix said. “We’re just honored to be able to share this moment with them.”

They also shared it with Smith and Carlos, who made their own American history 48 years ago when they raised their gloved fists on the medals stand at the Mexico City Olympics after the 200 in what they called “a human rights salute.”

“We’re proud of them,” Obama said. “Their powerful silent protest in the 1968 Games was controversial, but it woke folks up and created greater opportunity for those that followed.”

United States Olympic CEO Scott Blackmun said Wednesday night that the historic White House visits were meant in part to “pay tribute to all the progress that has come since.” That progress was on full display as part of the president’s remarks.

Obama pointed out that the diversity of the 2016 U.S. Olympic team was part of what made it successful. He singled out swimmers Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky and others, but the first four medalists he mentioned were gymnast Simone Biles, shot putter Michelle Carter, swimmer Simone Manuel and boxer Claressa Shields, all of whom are black.

He also recognized Ibtihaj Muhammad, the fencer who became the first U.S. female athlete to compete in the Olympics in a hijab.

“Imagine what it means for a young girl or a young boy who sees somebody who looks like them doing something and being the best at what they do,” Obama said. “There’s no kid in American who can’t look at our Olympic team and see themselves somewhere.”

Owens said in interviews over the years that in 1936 President Franklin Roosevelt never sent him any words of congratulations or an invitation to the White House.

Marlene Owens Rankin and Beverly Owens Prather represented their father Thursday. Granddaughter Marlene Dortch said Tuesday night that her family members and others going to the White House to see Obama would have made her grandfather “so happy.”

Obama was happy that the final U.S. Olympic team he’ll host at the White House not only dominated the medal count but did so with so many different kinds of athletes.

“One of the wonderful things we love when we see our Olympians is everybody’s from all kinds of different backgrounds and shapes and sizes,” Obama said. “There’s something special about that.”

Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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