On October 18, 1968, the United States Olympic Committee suspended Tommie Smith and John Carlos, two days after they won gold and bronze medals in the 200-meter sprint at the Summer Games in Mexico City, Mexico. 
 
At the medal ceremony, Smith, Carlos, and Australian silver medalist Peter Norman silently supported human rights and protested racism. The most visible aspects of this protest were Smith and Carlos lowering their gazes and raising their fists during the playing of the U.S. national anthem. The gesture was widely interpreted as a “black powersalute.
 
In addition to the salute, the athletes displayed other support for human rights. All three wore badges supporting the Olympic Project for Human Rights, created to bring attention to issues such as the lack of black coaches at the Olympics. Smith and Carlos ascended the medal stand wearing black socks, not shoes, to acknowledge poverty among African Americans. Smith wore a beaded necklace to honor the legacy of enslaved Africans and African Americans in the New World. 
 
In addition to being suspended, Smith and Carlos were also expelled from the Olympic Village and sent home. Today, the men are athletic coaches, motivational speakers, members of the Track & Field Hall of Fame, and recipients of awards for athleticism, courage, and conscience. Their gesture remains one of the most iconic moments in both the Olympics and the civil rights movement.
acknowledge
Verb

to recognize the truth or existence of something.

anthem
Noun

song of strong belief in faith or patriotism.

ascend
Verb

to go up.

athlete
Noun

person who participates or competes in sporting events.

badge
Noun

medal, token, card, or other marker acknowledging membership or achievement.

black power
Noun

 

political movement that supports the development of political and social institutions for African Americans, and emphasizes pride in African and African American culture.

ceremony
Noun

activities to celebrate or commemorate an event.

civil rights movement
Noun

(~1954-1968) process to establish equal rights for all people in the United States, focusing on the rights of African Americans.

conscience
Noun

a person's ethical and moral principles.

courage
Noun

bravery, or the ability to act according to your conscience in the face of criticism.

display
Verb

to show or reveal.

enslave
Verb

to totally control.

expel
Verb

to eject or force out.

gaze
Noun

steady look or line of sight.

gesture
Noun

expressive movement or action.

human rights
Noun

basic freedoms belonging to every individual, including the rights to social and political expression, spirituality, and opportunity.

iconic
Adjective

event or symbol representing a belief, nation, or community.

interpret
Verb

to explain or understand the meaning of something.

legacy
Noun

material, ideas, or history passed down or communicated by a person or community from the past.

motivation
Noun

process or desire to act in a certain way, or toward a specific goal.

Olympic Village
Noun

residential facilities constructed by the host city for visiting athletes, trainers, and officials of the Olympics.

poverty
Noun

status of having very little money or material goods.

protest
noun, verb

demonstration against a policy or action.

racism
Noun

governmental or social systems based on the belief that one race or ethnic group is superior to others.

salute
Noun

gesture of greeting, farewell, or respect.

sprint
Noun

short race.

suspend
Verb

to temporarily stop an activity.