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Influential Photographs: Black Power Salute in the 1968 Mexico Olympics by John Dominis

The Olympic Games had been home to some of the greatest human feats in history. It was, and still continues to be the proving ground for athletes all over the world as they compete for their country’s pride and the chance to achieve greatness in their sport.

The world witnessed many achievements in the halls of sporting events with the help of world class athletes. Their feats inspire many people to take greatness in their grasp and aspire for sportsmanship above all else. 1968’s Olympic Games in Mexico became a significant moment in the career of athletes but it was not just the medals handed out to winners that made it memorable. It was a symbol of protest that stood out among the sea of athletes: it was a pair of fists in black gloves raised to a salute that defined the moment. John Dominis stood behind the lens to capture this salute that would inspire change in the world of civil rights.

Photo by John Dominis via Smithsonian Mag

Track runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos won Gold and Bronze medals respectively an took to the podium for the awarding. As the U.S. National Anthem played, the two Olympic medalists took their fists into the air as a salute to civil rights struggle. With heads bowed down, the two track runners kept the solemn stance and received jeers and boos from the crowd as the anthem drew to a close.

The feat incited reprimands and controversy during the Games as well as the world but the two athletes were resolute in their tribute to the many racial injustices that had happened in the world. Both Smith and Carlos were expelled from the Games. Peter Norman, the Australian who won the Silver Medal for track gave support to the cause of the two competitors by wearing a human rights badge on his jacket. The iconic moment in the history of sport continues to inspire change and progress in the talks of civil rights and racial discrimination.

All information used in this article were sourced from Guardian, Iconic Photos blog, Wikipedia, Smithsonian Mag.

Our intention with the Influential Photographs columns is not to glorify or demean the subject of the photo. Our intention with this column is to highlight the most influential analogue photographs of history. The photographs we feature are considered icons, for their composition, subject matter, or avant-garde artistic value.

written by cheeo

1 comment

  1. gizmonox

    gizmonox

    in addition, carlos and smith stood taking the shoes off, which symbolizes the poverty most black people in u.s. exprienced during that time. and in peter norman's funeral in 2006, both smith and carlos were pallbearers. I remember watching that in the news.

    about 1 year ago · report as spam