Heroes Without a Country: America's Betrayal of Joe Louis and Jesse Owens

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book cover
  • Written by Donald McRae
  • ISBN 006000228X
  • Format: Hardcover, 389pp
  • Pub. Date: June 2003
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publishers Weekly Review:
After learning that the Olympic track star Jesse Owens once raced against the legendary heavyweight champion Joe Louis, McRae, a freelance writer living in London, set out to find what prompted such an unlikely pairing and to trace the arc of the two men's lives. The result of McRae's research is a powerful and moving story that documents how these two black stars struggled to reconcile their fame and success in the sporting arena to the discrimination faced by black Americans across most parts of the country. The answer to why Owens raced Louis is simple - Owens needed the money and Louis was more than willing to help out his friend. After refusing to continue a barnstorming tour following the 1936 Olympics, Owens was banned from continuing his track-and-field career as an amateur and turned to other ways to cash in on his notoriety. Following the collapse of several promising ventures, Owens took to racing horses and working at other odd jobs. Louis had no problem earning money as a professional fighter, but he had trouble keeping it. He spent freely, paid large sums to his promoters and handlers, and ended up owing the IRS millions in back taxes. Despite their money woes (Owens's financial situation improved over the years), the men slowly worked to break down racial barriers, and for that they held a special place in the hearts of most black Americans. McRae evinces a deep appreciation for the burdens fame bestowed on Owens and Louis and shines a well-deserved spotlight on two of the most prominent Americans of the 20th century. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.