Oxford AASC: Photo Essay

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PHOTO ESSAY

Black Nationalism and Independence Movements

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Tommie Smith and John Carlos, Olympians, 1968

Courtesy of Library of Congress

On 16 October 1968 at the Olympic summer games in Mexico City, the track-and-field sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos brought Black Power to an international audience. After winning gold and bronze medals, respectively, in the 200-meter sprint, Smith and Carlos took to the podium wearing black socks with no shoes to represent the poverty of black people in the United States and a black scarf to symbolize black pride. During the playing of the national anthem, Smith and Carlos lowered their eyes and each raised a single black-gloved fist in the traditional Black Power salute. Their gesture, meant to protest racism and segregation, was met with a mixed, though largely negative, response. Shamefully, after the ceremony the two Olympians were suspended by the U.S. team and ordered to leave Mexico City immediately.

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