John Carlos, the sprinter known for his iconic Black Power salute on the podium after winning the Bronze medal at the 1968 Olympic Games, spoke to a standing-room only audience in Stokes Auditorium last Friday.
“It takes a lot for me to get nervous talking in public, but we are in the presence of a living legend, a hero, the quintessential ‘Angry Black Man’ that the white establishment vilified,” Associate Professor of History Alexander Kitroeff said as he introduced Carlos.
Carlos’ bio, via the event’s online description:
John Carlos, bronze medalist in the 200-meter sprint at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, made waves across the world upon raising a black-gloved fist on the medal stand, in silent protest of racism and economic injustice among oppressed people across the United States. Carlos and fellow medalist Tommie Smith were banned from the Olympic Village, removed from the U.S. Olympic Team, and received death threats upon their arrival home. Despite a lengthy struggle, Carlos became a symbol of strength in the American civil rights movement, and an icon for future generations.
Below are some of Carlos’ remarks:
“The life you live right now, it ain’t for you. It’s for those that’s coming after you.”
“My purpose in going to the games was for the demonstration. I don’t think I ever considered going there and saying I had to win. I had to make the victory stand.”
“You can’t be neutral. You have to make some tough decisions….A lot of those guys that didn’t step up to the plate, 44 years later a lot of them wish they had stood fast.”
“I’m nobody special. Anybody in the audience can do the same thing I did, whether it be on the victory stand or in this chair right here. You know what the difference is in me and most of you guys out there? It’s that I got in touch with the man in the mirror real early in life. Found out who John Carlos was. What strength John Carlos has. What goals John Carlos wants. You know what I found? My biggest goal was to make sure that everybody gets over the wall before me. I ain’t gonna have no problem getting over the wall. But I don’t want to get over the wall and be by myself. So I try to encourage other people to go ahead of me.”
Photo courtesy of Alisa Strayer.
Video courtesy of the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship and Audio Visual Services.