Rediscover: The John Carlos Story

On October 16, 1968, Tommie Smith and John Carlos entered the Olympic Stadium in Mexico City to accept their medals for first and third place finishes in the 200-meter sprint. They were joined on the podium by Australian silver medalist Peter Norman. As "The Star-Spangled Banner" played, Smith and Carlos bowed their heads and raised their gloved fists in a Black Power salute that shocked spectators in the stadium and the world at large. The photograph of their protest, with both men in socks and sharing a pair of gloves (hence the opposite fists), has become an iconic image in sports and civil rights history.

All three men on the podium faced backlash. Peter Norman, despite his somewhat befuddled look in the famous photograph, actually supported Smith and Carlos, and encouraged them to don the human rights badge he also wore that day. Norman was kept off Australia's 1972 Summer Olympics team despite repeatedly qualifying (Smith and Carlos were pallbearers at his funeral in 2006). Smith and Carlos were ejected from the Olympic Village, denounced by International Olympic Committee president Avery Brundage--who had voiced no objections to Nazi salutes during the 1936 games--and ostracized from the American sports community.

Smith went on to play in the NFL before becoming an assistant professor of physical education at Oberlin College. Carlos played in the Canadian Football League, helped the U.S. Olympic Committee organize the 1984 games and is a social activist and track and field coach. In 2011, with sports journalist Dave Zirin, he co-wrote The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment That Changed the World (Haymarket Books, $15.95, 9781608462247), which includes a foreword by Cornel West. Tommie Smith's autobiography, Silent Gesture, was published in 2007 (Temple University Press, $23.95, 9781592136407). --Tobias Mutter

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