Seen around the world, John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s Black Power salute on the 1968 Olympic podium sparked controversy and career fallout. Yet their show of defiance remains one of the most iconic images of Olympic history and the Black Power movement. Here is the remarkable story of one of the men behind the salute, lifelong activist, John Carlos.
DR. JOHN CARLOS is an African American former track and field athlete and professional football player, and a founding member of the Olympic Project for Human Rights. He won the bronze-medal in the 200 meters race at the 1968 Summer Olympics, where his Black Power salute on the podium with Tommie Smith caused much political controversy. He went on to equal the world record in the 100 yard dash and beat the 200 meters world record. After his track career, he enjoyed brief stints in the National Football League and Canadian Football League but retired due to injury. He became involved with the United States Olympic Committee and helped to organize the 1984 Summer Olympics. He later became a track coach at a high school in Palm Springs, where he now resides. He was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 2003.
DAVE ZIRIN is the sports editor for the Nation and the author of Game Over: How Politics Has Turned the Sports World Upside Down. Named one of UTNE Reader’s “Fifty Visionaries Who Are Changing Our World,” Zirin is a frequent guest on MSNBC, ESPN, and Democracy Now! He also hosts the weekly Sirius XM show Edge of Sports Radio and has been called “the best sportswriter in the United States,” by Robert Lipsyte.
One of America’s most provocative public intellectuals, Dr. Cornel West has been a champion for racial justice since childhood. His writing, speaking, and teaching weave together the traditions of the black Baptist Church, progressive politics, and jazz. The New York Times has praised his “ferocious moral vision.” His many books include Race Matters, Democracy Matters, and his new autobiography, Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud.