1968 Salute Leaves Lasting Impact On Social Activism In Olympic Movement

"The year is 1968. The world has converged on Mexico City for the Olympic Games. And track and field stars Tommie Smith and John Carlos have just turned the apolitical ethos of the Games on its head.

In the photograph, two figures in navy blue track jackets stand atop a podium with their heads down and fists raised. They wear gold and bronze medals and a black glove apiece, two halves of a pair meant to draw attention to the plight of African-Americans back home in the United States.

“Getting on the victory stand, I had a heart feeling, but I didn’t have the words to prompt the necessity of revealing, verbally, what I felt,” said Smith, who earned gold in the 200-meter to place him on the podium that day along with Carlos, the bronze medalist, and Australian Peter Norman, who took silver and wore an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge to show his support for the protest.

“People didn’t believe that what I was saying was necessary, as far as equality is concerned. But now things are changing.”"

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 Image: Crawford Family/ US Olympic Archives 

Image: Crawford Family/ US Olympic Archives