The story behind this iconic Olympics protest

Tommie Smith and John Carlos’s 1968 US national anthem protest, explained.

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The image of sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their fists during a medal ceremony at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City is an enduring image of silent protest. But the key to understanding it goes beyond the black-gloved fists. All three medal winners, including silver medalist Peter Norman of Australia, wore buttons that read “Olympic Project for Human Rights.” The Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) was a coalition of prominent athletes formed in 1967 that threatened to boycott participating in the upcoming Olympic games, in order to draw attention to systemic racism in the United States. The group, led by professor Harry Edwards, ultimately voted to compete in the games and hold their demonstrations there, which led to the now-iconic display on the medal stand following the men’s 200-meter final. This act got Smith and Carlos kicked off the team, but left a lasting legacy on making political statements through sport. 

Additional reading: 
The Revolt of the Black Athlete, by Dr. Harry Edwards
https://archive.org/details/TheRevoltOfTheBlackAthlete

Darkroom is a history and photography series that anchors each episode around a single image. Analyzing what the photo shows (or doesn't show) provides context that helps unravel a wider story. Watch previous episodes here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddiOJLuu2mo&list=PLJ8cMiYb3G5ce8J4P5j5qOEtYR94Z3DQs

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