John Carlos & Tommie Smith

Olympic Medalists & Athlete Activists

In  October 1968, United States track-and-field athlete Tommie Smith won the 200 meter race with a world-record time of 19.83 seconds. A world-record means that Tommie broke every recorded time, for a 200-meter-race runner, in the world.That same day, Australia’s track-and-field athlete Peter Norman finished second with a time of 20.06 seconds. Another runner for the United States, John Carlos, finished in third place with a time of 20.10 seconds. 

When the race was completed, the three went to the podium to be given their winning medals. 

John and Tommie wore no shoes, a symbol for Black people in poverty. Tommie wore a black scarf around his neck to represent Black pride, Carlos had his tracksuit unzipped to show solidarity with all blue-collar workers in the United States. 


When The Star-Spangled Banner played, Smith and Carlos delivered the Black Power salute with heads bowed, an image that was seen around the world.  As they left the podium they were booed by the Olympic audience.

The actions of Tommie and John, as well as many athletes and activists before them, inspired protests to this very day. Most recently: Colin Kaepernick and other U.S. athletes protests that bring light to racism and police brutality. 

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