#AtoZ 1968 – “B” is for Black Power Salute in Mexico City

“You’re going to get a concept that maybe this really is one world and why the hell can’t we learn to live together like decent people.” ~ Astronaut Frank Borman, on seeing the entire earth from outer space as he and the crew of the Apollo 8 returned from orbiting the moon.

image from Wikipedia, photograph by John Dominis

Tommie Smith and John Carlos were featured recently during NBC’s coverage of the XXIII Olympic Winter Games, as this is the 50th anniversary of the 1968 event.

The demonstration, known as the 1968 Olympics Human Rights Salute, was conducted by Smith and Carlos during their medal ceremony in Mexico City for the summer games. In the 200-meter running event, Tommie Smith won the gold medal and John Carlos won the bronze. As the national anthem for the United States played, Smith and Carlos turned on the podium and raised one fist, covered with a black glove. Also, Smith and Carlos, as well as Australian silver medalist Peter Norman, wore human rights badges on their jackets.

In his autobiography, Silent Gesture, Smith stated that the gesture was not a “Black Power” salute, but meant as a human rights salute. Both Smith and Carlos removed their shoes to receive their medals, but wore black socks, to symbolize black poverty in America. International Olympic Committee president Avery Brundage ordered Smith and Carlos suspended from the US team and banned from the Olympic Village. The US Olympic Committee refused, and Brundage threatened to ban the entire US track team. This threat led to the expulsion of the two athletes.

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Here’s the #88 song on Billboard’s Year-End Top 100 Singles of 1968:

“Do You Know the Way to San Jose” by Dionne Warwick