Oral History

Olympic athlete John Woodruff describes his experiences of discrimination

In 1936, John Woodruff was one of 18 African Americans on the US Olympic team competing in Berlin. He won the gold medal for the men's 800-meter race. In this clip from an interview on May 15, 1996, Woodruff describes his personal experiences of racial discrimination during and after the Olympic Games of 1936


...we were a victim, being, myself personally, we were a victim of discrimination in, in, in, in the country of America for all those many years, cause I’d only lived in the world for 21 years at that particular time. And we understood that. We didn’t like it. We never do. We never did like it and we never will like it. We still have racism in this country. This country is still full of racism as far as, as a Black man is concerned. Things are better than they used to be. Much better. Economically speaking, Blacks are getting better jobs than they got back in those days. They’re able to go to any, any, any, any university in the country. Cause back in those days you couldn’t go, you couldn’t go, you couldn’t go to University of Georgia or University of Mississippi and what you have back in those, back in those times. You couldn’t go to the Naval Academy back in those times. Well, tell you a little experience in that, in that regard. We had a track meet to run at Annapolis, at the Naval Academy. Now here I am an Olympic champion and they told my coach that I couldn’t run. I couldn’t come. So I had to stay home because of discrimination.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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