After his four victories at the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin, Owens returned to the US and immediately confronted the cold racist attitudes of his countrymen. There was no pause, no reprieve, even for an Olympic gold medalist. Later, he recalled:
When I came back to my native country, after all the stories about Hitler, I couldn’t ride in the front of the bus. I had to go to the back door. I couldn’t live where I wanted. I wasn’t invited to shake hands with Hitler, but I wasn’t invited to the White House to shake hands with the President, either.
New York City did hold a ticker-tape parade in his honor. But when he attended a reception at the Waldorf-Astoria, he was forced to ride the freight elevator. And he didn’t make it to the White House until Eisenhower named him an “Ambassador of Sports” in 1955. FDR and Truman never bothered to extend an invitation to the Olympic hero.