A silent salute that roared around the world

JASMIN K. WILLIAMS Amsterdam News Staff | 10/22/2012, 2:21 p.m.
On Oct. 16, 1968, at the Olympic medals ceremony in Mexico City, American athletes Tommie...
A silent salute that roared around the world

Carlos took a similar career path, setting a record in 1969 in the 100-yard dash and later playing in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles. Today, he is the track and field coach at Palm Springs High School.

Norman fared the worst. Despite winning a silver medal and running a record-setting race in '68, he was reprimanded by the Australian press, ostracized and blacklisted. He was excluded from the 1972 Olympics despite qualifying with world-beating times. He quit athletics in protest.

Norman died in 2006. Smith and Carlos were among his pallbearers. Smith praised Norman posthumously, describing him as "a man who believed right could never be wrong."

Carlos recounted the conversation they had before going out for the medal ceremony. They asked Norman if he believed in human rights. He said he did. They asked him if he believed in God. Norman, who came from a Salvation Army background, said he believed strongly in God.

"We knew that what we were going to do was far greater than any athletic feat. He said, 'I'll stand with you.'" Carlos said he expected to see fear in Norman's eyes. He didn't. "I saw love. Peter never flinched. He never turned his eyes. He never turned his head. He never said so much as 'ouch,'" said Smith in his 2007 autobiography, "Silent Gesture." Smith also said the move was "not a Black power salute, but a human rights salute."

The famous photo of the three athletes was declared by LIFE magazine as one of the 20 most influential images of the 20th century.


  • Look It Up: Use the Internet or other reference source to learn more about Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Peter Norman and the events surrounding the Black Power Salute of 1968.
  • Talk About It: Discuss the significance of the Black Power Salute of 1968. Why was it an important and brave stand to take? Do you think it helped or hurt the cause? Would you have done the same? Why or why not?
  • Write It Down: Write a letter to Avery Brundage, who, in 1968, was the president of the International Olympic Committee, supporting or condemning his demand to expel the athletes from the games because of their actions. Use facts to argue both sides of the situation. Read your letters out loud.

This Week in Black History

  • Oct. 15, 1883: The U.S. Supreme Court declares the Civil Rights Act of 1875 unconstitutional.
  • Oct. 16, 1995: Nation of Islam's Minister Louis Farrakhan calls more than 1 million Black men to convene in Washington, D.C., for a "Day of Atonement and Reconciliation."
  • Oct. 21, 1917: Jazz trumpet master John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie is born in Cheraw, S.C. Gillespie was one of the founders of the jazz style known as bebop.