‘Just Like Jesse Owens’: A Children’s Book That Chronicles A Transformative Day In The Life Of Civil Rights Icon Andrew Young

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Civil rights icon Ambassador Andrew Young collaborated with his daughter Paula Young Shelton on the children’s book Just Like Jesse Owens in order to recount a significant day in Young’s childhood that transformed him forever. Illustrated by Gordon C. James, the powerful story depicts race relations in the 1930s South through the eyes of Andrew Young.

As a child in the 1930s, Andrew Young received an important lesson from his parents when a local chapter of the Nazi party caused racial unrest in their New Orleans hometown. With the teachings of White supremacy at an all-time high in the era of Hitler, Andrew’s father told him “Don’t get mad, get smart,” when it comes to handling the injustice of racism. His father took the family to the moviehouse to watch a newsreel of legendary track star Jesse Owens racing for Olympic gold, and Young gained a new understanding that the most effective way to promote equality in this world is to focus on the finish line. 


This fateful moment of watching Jesse Owens combined with the teachings of his parents would form the guiding principles that shaped Young’s steadfast beliefs in nonviolence, leading him to become a prominent civil rights leader and advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

In 1972, Young became the first African American representative from the deep South since Reconstruction to be elected to Congress in Atlanta, Georgia. He was also appointed the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, where he advocated for human rights on a global scale. Today, he continues his equality mission through the Andrew J. Young Foundation, which supports and advances education, leadership, and human rights in the United States, Africa, and the Caribbean.


The story within Just Like Jesse Owens is sharply recalled by his daughter Paula, an early childhood educator with over three decades of experience with teaching young children. She is the author of the lauded children’s book Child of the Civil Rights Movement, named as the Best Children’s Book of the Year by Bank Street College of Education. Learn more about Paula’s work by visiting

Just Like Jesse Owens is illustrated by Gordon C. James, an award-winning illustrator whose works include Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut and I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes. Among others, James has been awarded with the Caldecott Honor medal, the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award, and an Ezra Jack Keats Honor award.

To  purchase a copy, visit Amazon or your local bookstore. Below, watch Andrew Young and Paula Young Shelton discuss Just Like Jesse Owens in an exclusive interview with CBS.

Ayanna Nicole

Hi! I’m Ayanna, a writer and artist. Although I graduated from The University of North Carolina at Charlotte with two degrees in art and psychology, I’ve had a passion for writing for as long as I can remember. By following my dreams and utilizing my creativity, I designed Jaro Magazine with the ultimate intention of bringing more positive stories in the black community to the forefront, while also highlighting our versatile and vibrant culture through Jaro’s four modes: film, books, art, and music. I also manage a book hub, which you can find on Instagram @bloomingliterature.

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