Accession number: 2010.12.01
Group: Track and field
Narrative: Used as a souvenir for the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.
This phrasebook from the 1968 Mexico Olympics belonged to Nova Scotia-born Olympian Debbie Miller. She competed in 100m and 4x100m relay races and had this book signed by past American Olympian Jesse Owens.
Debbie Miller Brown (b. 1950) was the first Black woman born in Nova Scotia to become an Olympian. Originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Miller Brown moved with her family to Brantford, Ontario and began running at age 11, quickly setting many secondary school records. She pushed herself in high school training by competing against the male track athletes, all the time aiming to make Canada’s Olympic team.
Miller Brown realized her dream in 1968, travelling with Canada’s national track team to Mexico City to compete in the Olympic Games. At only 17 years old, she was one of the youngest Olympians participating in track. The town of Brantford was so proud of Miller Brown that they sent her a telegram with the names of 350 residents who wanted to wish her good luck, a special gesture that captured the interest of many of her Olympic teammates. At the 1968 Games, she ran the 100-yard, achieving a time that ranked her eighth in the world, and also competed on the women’s relay team. When she returned from Mexico she was honoured with the Medal of Excellence in Sports from the Prime Minister. She also brought back the souvenir that is displayed here: a Spanish-English phrasebook that was created especially for the Mexico City Olympics and that Miller Brown had signed by American track celebrity Jesse Owens. The dedication reads: “To Debbie, My sincere greetings. Jesse Owens.”
Miller Brown also broke the Canadian women’s 100-yard dash record during her career, and she matched and broke Nova Scotian track pioneer Aileen Meagher’s 100-yard dash record of 11.2 seconds. Shortly before her Olympic appearance, Miller Brown ran her best ever time, missing the world record by only two seconds. A role model for her community at a time when she was one of a small minority of Black Canadian athletes on the Olympic team, Miller Brown is a Nova-Scotian-born success story who later gave back to her birthplace by coaching track at Saint Mary’s University.
(Many of the facts for this text were sourced from the Ontario Black History Society’s website.)
Description: Small red phrasebook for the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. Soft-cover, CocaCola ad on back. Owned by 1968 Olympic competitor Debbie Miller (Brown). The inside cover is signed by American track star Jesse Owens.