Special to the Daily World
Long before Michael Jackson became the gloved one, John Carlos and Tommie Smith shocked the nation and the world, when they donned single black gloves and gave the “Black Power” salute during the 1968 Olympics, to call attention to the plight of the African-American community.
In celebration of Black History Month at Clark Atlanta University (CAU) under the theme “Black Power Now,” Carlos was on the Atlanta campus on Feb. 8 discussing “The Sports Moment That Changed the World.” The event took place in the Thomas W. Cole Jr. Research Center for Science and Technology. Carlos also held a book signing session that was open to the public.
CAU President Carlton E. Brown said, “In saluting Black History Month, we will take this opportunity to examine the “Black Power” movement and its health, meaning and momentum. Mr. Carlos’ daring and defiant act brought to center stage the plight of Black America and the poor and disadvantaged everywhere. We are excited to have him share his personal recollections, which should be an eye-opener for today’s students, who in many ways take civil rights and equal opportunity for granted.”
On the morning of Oct. 16, 1968, U.S. athlete Tommie Smith won the 200-meter race in a world-record time of 19.83 seconds, with Australia’s Peter Norman second with a time of 20.06 seconds, and the U.S.’s John Carlos in third place with a time of 20.10 seconds. After the race was completed, the three went to collect their medals at the podium. Smith and Carlos received their medals shoeless, but wearing black socks, to represent black poverty.
Smith wore a black scarf around his neck to represent black pride. Carlos had his tracksuit top unzipped to show solidarity with all U.S. blue-collar workers and wore a necklace of beads, which he described “were those individuals that were lynched or killed and that no one said a prayer for, that were hung and tarred. It was for those thrown off the side of the boats in the Middle Passage.”
Both Smith and Carlos intended to bring black gloves to the event, but Carlos forgot his. It was Norman who suggested that Carlos wear Smith’s left-handed glove, so Carlos raised his left fist, differing from the tradition of the right-handed “Black Power” salute. When “The Star-Spangled Banner” played, Smith and Carlos delivered the salute with fists raised and heads bowed – a gesture that became front-page news around the world. After they left the podium, they were booed by the crowd.
Visit YouTube to see the podium presentation of medals at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKDKeVuCxUM&feature=related.