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Jim Thorpe: Outracing the Odds

In-Person and Online Program

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Thursday, October 6, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET
Code: 1K0279
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Registration Advisory: This program has multiple ticket options depending on your choice to attend in person at the Rasmuson Theater at the National Museum of the American Indian or as an online program using Zoom. Before you register, please refer to our in-person vs. online program procedural documentation to learn about our current terms and conditions.

Jim Thorpe rose to world fame as a mythic talent who excelled at every sport. He won gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, was an All-American football player at the Carlisle Indian School, the star of the first class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and played major-league baseball for John McGraw’s New York Giants. Even in a golden age of sports celebrities, he was one of a kind.

But despite his colossal skills, Thorpe’s life was a struggle against the odds. As a member of the Sac and Fox Nation, he encountered duplicitous authorities who turned away from him when their reputations were at risk. At Carlisle, he dealt with the racist assimilationist philosophy “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.” His gold medals were unfairly rescinded because he had played Minor-League baseball. His later life was troubled by alcohol, broken marriages, and financial distress. He roamed from state to state and took bit parts in Hollywood, but even the film of his own life failed to improve his fortunes.

In a conversation with Kevin Gover, the Smithsonian's undersecretary of museums and a former director of the National Museum of the American Indian, biographer David Maraniss discusses America’s greatest all-around athlete who, for all his travails, did not succumb. The man survived, complications and all, and so did the myth.

Maraniss is an associate editor at the Washington Post and a distinguished visiting professor at Vanderbilt University. He has won two Pulitzer Prizes for journalism.

As a citizen of the Pawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, Gover's life includes parallel experiences to Thorpe's.

Maraniss's book, Path Lit by Lightning: The Life of Jim Thorpe (Simon & Schuster), is available for purchase. For in-person attendees, you will have an opportunity to have your book signed.

Book Sale Information

General Information

  • For in-person ticket buyers, registration will end by 3 p.m. on Thursday, October 6.
In-person Ticket Holders: Rasmuson Theater
National Museum of the American Indian
4th St & Independence Ave SW
Online Ticket Holders: Zoom