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John Carlos will speak at UD on Feb. 20. He won the bronze medal in the 200 meter run in the 1968 Summer Olympics and then raised a fist in protest on the medal podium.
John Carlos won the bronze medal in the 200 meter run in the 1968 Summer Olympics and then raised a fist in protest on the medal podium. He will speak at UD on Feb. 20.

Feb. 20: Olympian John Carlos to speak on human rights

Photos courtesy of Nathaniel Anderson, Haymarket Books

Medal podium protest in 1968 Olympics a defining moment in civil rights struggle

“October 16, 1968 will forever have a special place in my heart, as it is the day I learned how powerful a united voice could be.”

— John Carlos, Olympic sprinter and USA Track and Field Hall of Fame member

John Carlos earned the bronze medal in the 200 meters in the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Mexico — during the height of the civil rights movement in the United States — and then gained world recognition for a silent gesture he made afterward. Standing on the podium during the medal ceremony, wearing black socks and no shoes to represent poverty, Carlos raised a black-gloved fist and bowed his head. Teammate and gold medalist Tommie Smith did the same, while Australian silver medalist Peter Norman wore a Project for Human Rights badge. The photograph of the three medalists standing in protest at the podium instantly became a symbol of the fight for human rights.

Cover of John Carlos' book, entitled The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment That Changed the World
The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment That Changed the World was published in 2011.

Carlos will share his story on Feb. 20 at the University of Delaware in a lecture titled, “Fifty Years Later ‘We’ Still Raising Our Fists.”  The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held at 5 p.m. in Trabant Theatre. It is hosted by the Department of Africana Studies and co-sponsored by the College of Arts & Sciences, the vice provost for diversity, and the Center for Black Culture.

Following their protest in 1968, Carlos and Smith were suspended from the U.S. team and banned from the Olympic Village. In 1969, Carlos equaled the world 100-yard record of 9.1 seconds and won the AAU 220-yard run at San Jose State University. After his track career, Carlos had a brief stint playing professional football, and then worked with Puma, the United States Olympic Committee, and the Organizing Committee of the 1984 Summer Olympics. He was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 2003.

In April of 2008, Carlos again took to the international stage, serving as a torchbearer for the Human Rights Torch, which ran in parallel to the 2008 Summer Olympics torch relay, and focused attention on China’s human rights record. In July of the same year, Carlos accepted the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage for his salute at the 2008 Espy Awards. In 2011, his memoir, The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment That Changed the World, was published.

Today, Carlos serves as a counselor, in-school suspension supervisor, and the track and field coach at Palm Springs High School in California. Continuing his mission to improve human rights conditions, he is actively involved with global and community movements.


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