The Alabama-born sprinter won the 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay and long jump - the latter after getting help marking out his run-up from his German rival Luz Long, who later walked arm-in-arm with the victorious jumper..
Owens's success has been seen as a direct affront to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, who was three years away from unleashing war in Europe.
While the American's feats were clearly one in the eye for the theory of Aryan supremacy, the truth is rather more complicated than often portrayed.
Owens denied reports that Hitler had refused to congratulate him, saying: "It happened that he had to leave before the victory ceremony after the 100 metres.
"But before he left I was on my way to a broadcast and passed near his box. He waved at me and I waved back. I think it was bad taste to criticise the 'man of the hour' in another country."
On his return to the US, Owens was met with continued racial discrimination despite his celebrity status - he was not allowed to use the main elevator to get to a reception in his honour in New York.
He also accused President Franklin Roosevelt of failing to recognise his achievements: "Hitler didn't snub me – it was FDR who snubbed me."