Olympic sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos
Tommie Smith and John Carlos made headlines and history at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City when they raised their gloved fists to the sky in what has become known as the “Black Power” salute to protest racial injustice against blacks.
For their brave action, they were subsequently dismissed from the team. They were also abused and hurled with death threats back in the United States.
Fast forward 2019, the U.S. Olympic Committee looks to atone for its wrongdoing after it announced that the duo are set to be inducted into the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Hall of Fame on November 1 for their “character, conduct and off-field contributions,” according to USA TODAY.
“It sends the message that maybe we had to go back in time and make some conscious decisions about whether we were right or wrong,” Carlos told USA TODAY Sports.
“They’ve come to the conclusion that, ‘Hey man, we were wrong. We were off-base in terms of humanity relative to the human rights era.’”
Smith and Carlos’ “Black Power” salute is regarded as one of the most iconic moments in black history in the United States.
Smith on the morning of October 16, 1968, won the 200m race, setting a world record of 19.83 seconds. Australia’s Peter Norman came in second, with Carlos coming in at third. As custom, the three athletes went to the podium to accept their medals.
Smith and Carlos did not wear shoes on the podium. Instead, they wore black socks to represent Black poverty. Smith also wore a black scarf to highlight Black pride.
Carlos unzipped his track jacket to show solidarity with working-class people in the United States. He also wore a beaded necklace, which he says was in honor of individuals who were slain in lynching and others killed in violent ways at the hands of white people.
Carlos also said the beads represented slaves who were thrown overboard during the Middle Passage journey.