Owens won four events at the 1936 Berlin Games — 100 meters, 200 meters, 4x100-meter relay and long jump — in the backdrop Adolf Hitler trying to showcase Aryan supremacy in Nazi Germany.
But Owens struggled to provide for his family upon his return, as job options were limited due to segregation. He was also stripped of his amateur status after going home rather than touring with the Olympic team.
Owens gave one of his medals to dancer and movie star Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, whom Owens befriended after he returned from the Olympics.
"They formed a friendship and also a professional relationship. Bojangles helped Owens get work in the entertainment field," Imler said. "Owens gave him this medal out of gratitude and as a token of their friendship."
The medal up for auction comes from the estate of Robinson's widow. The Robinson family declined to comment, but Imler said the family plans to use the money to pay for college tuition and contribute to charity. The auction closes on Dec. 7.
The whereabouts of the other three gold medals is unknown.
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