Little Known Black History Fact: Salute: The 1968 Olympics

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  • The 1968 Olympics in Mexico City were made famous by African-American track and field gold medalist, Tommie Smith, bronze medalist John Carlos and Australian silver medalist Peter Norman.

    The two black men who had earned top honors in the race wore black gloves and held up tight fists in honor of the black power movement during the final ceremony. Neither man wore shoes in order to send a message about black poverty in America. John Carlos purposely unzipped the top of his tracksuit to represent solidarity of the blue collar works in America and hung beads around his neck to pay homage to those lynched from hatred and slaves brought through the middle passage. Peter Norman, like the others, wore a pin that said OPHR, to support the Olympic Project for Human Rights. The Olympic Project for Human Rights was a 1967 organization that was initially expected to boycott the 1968 Summer Olympic games. The group, founded by Harry Edwards, was organized to protest racism in America.

    As the men left the podium, they were booed by spectators. Smith and Carlos were given reprimand and expelled from the 1968 Olympic games at the urging of known Nazi sympathizer, Avery Brundage, who was the president of the International Olympic Committee. Once they returned home, many fans had turned to enemies and the men received death threats. Peter Norman was shunned by the sports community in Austrailia. Rumors of stripped medals rung throughout sports history, though some have been claimed to be untrue.

    There is a mural in Sydney, Australia of the three men standing on the podium, representing their countries and political ideals. It is painted on a home that is visible to those on the local commuter train.

    A new film in London has been released to tell the true international impact of the decisions made by Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Peter Norman and how their actions rocked the civil rights movement, slightly changing the outlook of patriotism in both countries. Smith and Carlos were present for a screening of “Salute,” in London prior to this year’s Olympic Summer games.

    The film is directed and written by Matt Norman, Peter Norman’s nephew, however, Peter Norman passed away in 2006 and was not able to see his story told to an international audience, 40 years after the life changing moment.
     

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    4 thoughts on “Little Known Black History Fact: Salute: The 1968 Olympics

    1. I am glad to know about the involvement of the Australian, Peter Norman. This is the first time I heard that part of the story. We really have to be thankful about the efforts of all the people who came before us. Truly, we stand on their shoulders.

    2. I agree with you Anderson…until this is corrected the hurdle still remains a barrier to true diversity and acceptance in our society!!!!

    3. Really great story. As easy as it is for mainstream society to say that we have crossed over that racial hurdle, we see the reality that the African American Male and Female greatest accomplishments to this world as we know It is never going to be accepted for it’s true beauty. We as African Americans have been the literal backbone of this country and many more and only deserve like the Indians receieved, the acknowlegements of our great legacies and contributions to this world….Son instead of years later of our greatness, give credit where it it is due ppl. Then we can truly see and know that those hurdles of divide has been truly crossed….

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