By: Sarah Wolberg
Olympic medalist John Carlos spoke to a packed Stokes Auditorium on the evening of September 27th to discuss his civil rights demonstration at the 1968 Olympic Games. Carlos, along with his United States track teammate, Tommie Smith, made news worldwide the summer of 1968 after he raised the Black Power symbol of a black-gloved fist on the winner’s podium after taking bronze in the 100-meters.
Carlos spoke to assorted community members and many students, discussing the silent protest of the civil rights issues that plagued 1968—the year of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination—and that year’s Olympic Games.
In the aftermath of Carlos’s protest, the International Olympic Committee forced the U.S. team to expel Carlos and Smith from the Games, and the two received death threats for years afterward.
“When you hear about people like Jackie Robinson or myself, they’ll tell you Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, but they don’t tell you about what Jackie Robinson had to endure afterward,” Carlos said of the animosity he faced upon his return to the U.S. after the games.
Carlos seemed to think his actions were worth the trouble though. He compared himself to other historical figures labeled “troublemakers”: Mandela, Gandhi, even Christ.
“I realized, ‘Damn, you’re in pretty good company as a troublemaker,’” Carlos said.
Associate Professor of History Alexander Kitroeff moderated the discussion, calling Carlos “a living hero” who has become “the image of the modern Olympics.”