After the 200 meter race at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, African-American athletes Tommie Smith (born 1944) and John Carlos (1945) became the center of a roiling controversy over their gloved hands in a raised-fist salute, a symbol of Black Power and the human rights movement at-large. This event occurred during the playing of the Untied States national anthem when Smith received a gold and Carlos a bronze medal.

The two athletes had agreed to use their medal wins as an opportunity to highlight the social issues roiling the country at the time. Racial tensions were at a height, and the Civil Rights movement had given way to the Black Power movement. Their gesture was an active form of protest and symbol of advocacy for racial pride, Black nationalism and dramatic action rather than incremental change.

Both men helped organize the Olympic Project for Human Rights in the lead-up to the Olympics that summer, plus it was only months after the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4th. The group saw the Olympic Games as an opportunity to agitate for better treatment of Black athletes as well as a demand to rescind an Olympic invitation to Rhodesia and South Africa, which practiced apartheid, a system of legislation that upheld segregation in policies against non-white citizens.

Tommie Smith and John Carlos are both American former track & field athletes who also played professional football.

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