Silent Cries: Tommie Smith and John Carlos


Prior to enrolling in this class, my Idea of who or what an activist was yes…you guessed it! The picket sign holding, DC streets marching individuals who yell and scream until their requests are granted. Even now, with all the new things that I’m learning about who and what defines an activist I still struggle to find the activist in me. I see myself as just an average college student  going through the motions of life. Although I do not necessarily identify as an activist, there are two individuals who I do highly admire for their activism. They are the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Gold and Bronze Medalists in the 200 meter dash, Tommie Smith and John Carlos. Their black power salute and silent protest against black injustice during the medal presentation ceremony at the 89′ Olympics  is arguably the most iconic gestures of the Olympic games. Smith and Carlos did in 89’ what many athletes today would not dare to do because of the fear of losing their endorsements. They used athletics and the popularity of the Olympic games as a medium to communicate to the world that the injustice against African-Americans was still very prevalent the United States at the time. Smith raised his right fist as a representation of black power in America while John Carlos raised his black-gloved left. He even unzipped his jacket—a huge violation of the Olympic protocol. Carlos did this as a representation of his friends who were blue collared workers in New York City. He also wore a black scarf and black socks without shoes, these action represented black pride and black poverty respectively. This silent protest sparked a lot of outrage, both athletes were suspended from the United States National Team and banned from the Olympic village but at the same time, supporters of their actions praised them for their boldness.


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