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 power” salute.
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.
to recognize the truth or existence of something.
song of strong belief in faith or patriotism.
to go up.
person who participates or competes in sporting events.
medal, token, card, or other marker acknowledging membership or achievement.
political movement that supports the development of political and social institutions for African Americans, and emphasizes pride in African and African American culture.
activities to celebrate or commemorate an event.
civil rights movement
(~1954-1968) process to establish equal rights for all people in the United States, focusing on the rights of African Americans.
a person's ethical and moral principles.
bravery, or the ability to act according to your conscience in the face of criticism.
to show or reveal.
to totally control.
to eject or force out.
steady look or line of sight.
expressive movement or action.
basic freedoms belonging to every individual, including the rights to social and political expression, spirituality, and opportunity.
event or symbol representing a belief, nation, or community.
to explain or understand the meaning of something.
material, ideas, or history passed down or communicated by a person or community from the past.
process or desire to act in a certain way, or toward a specific goal.
residential facilities constructed by the host city for visiting athletes, trainers, and officials of the Olympics.
status of having very little money or material goods.
demonstration against a policy or action.
governmental or social systems based on the belief that one race or ethnic group is superior to others.
gesture of greeting, farewell, or respect.
to temporarily stop an activity.