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Tommie Smith and John Carlos

an act for Human Rights

On October 16, 1968, in the Olympic Stadium in Mexico City, Tommie Smith and John Carlos placed first and third in the 200 metres Olympic final. After getting on the podium for the awards ceremony, Smith and Carlos turned themselves to the American flag hung over the stands, they bowed their head and raised a closed fist, wearing black gloves, to reaffirm the battle for the African-Americans' civil rights in America. 

They chose various symbolic expedients for partecipating at the award ceremony, as they explained afterwards: they went there barefooted with black socks, to represent the poverty of the African-Americans; Smith weared a black scarf, while Carlos a closed up jumpsuit to show solidarity to american workers; around the neck he weared a pearl necklace, as a symbol of the stones used during the lynching of the african-americans. That day Carlos forgot his gloves, so Smith borrowed him one: that is the reason why they raised different arms.

The athlete who placed second, Norman, joined their protest too, discretely, wearing a patch of the OPHR. During the ceremony, the Stadium fell in silence.

Smith and Carlos underwent to broad critics and received threats and intimidations. However, they became the heroes of the African-American community and during the following decades they have received many awards and recognitions for their protest.

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