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Friday, June 14, 2013

1968 Olympics and the Black Power Movement

The Human Rights Salute, popularly known as the  Black Power Salute was made famous to the world at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. 

The movement that lead to the preparation of this iconic photo was called the Olympic Project for Human Rights or OPHRwhich was established by Harry Edwards, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, UC Berkeley.  

The 1968 Olympics took place the same year that Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated. It took an enormous amount of courage to make these public displays of solidarity.     

Tommie Smith, Olympic Gold 1968, 200 Meter 
He described his salute as a "Black cry for freedom". They took off their Pumas to show solidarity with the poor who have no shoes. They wore black socks and black gloves to signify solidarity with the Black man. Smith received more than 50 threats to his life during this era. 

John Carlos, Olympic Bronze 1968, 200 Meter
He wore the left glove from the one set of black gloves that was brought. There were supposed to be two sets of black gloves but one set was left behind. Carlos left his jacket unzipped to break with protocol. His necklace symbolizes the ropes of lynchings. At one point during this period John's dog was slaughtered into pieces and thrown onto his front porch. 

Peter Norman, Olympic Silver 1968 and supporter of Human Rights
Adorned the OPHR badge that he requested from one of the Harvard University Rowing Team members. Norman also suggested that John Carlos wear the left black glove. 

San Jose State University
San Jose State University
This is where a statue to commemorate Smith and Carlos was installed in 2005

Harvard University Rowing Team 
Supported the OPHR. The member who gave his OPHR badge to Peter Norman was going to also be suspended and sent home but white privilege kicked in for him and he was allowed to row with his team. 

Avery Brundage
Suspended Tommie Smith and John Carlos after their salute during the Star Spangled Banner. Brundage stipulated that they must leave Mexico within 48 hours. Brundage is the person who excused White Nazi salutes at the 1936 German Olympics as national salutes and therefor okay, but didn't excuse the Black Power salute for the Olympic Project for Human Rights.

Additional Americans who made the 1968 Olympics one of the best for the United States

Lee EvansOlympic Gold 1968, 400 Meters
Larry JamesOlympic Gold 1968, 400 Meters
Ron FreemanOlympic Gold 1968, 400 Meters
They all wore black berets when they walked onto the stand, they gave a quick and smaller black power fist, and when the national anthem played they put their hands to their sides and removed their berets. 

Bob Beamon, Olympic Gold 1968, Long Jump record that stood for 20 years

Black Power Salute documentary on YouTube

Also see