Tommie Smith – John Carlos – Peter Norman

On October 16th 1968 at the Olympic games in Mexico two USA athletes and one Australian athlete stood in defiance against racism in the USA. Tommy Smith had just won gold in the 200 metres, with Peter Norman (Australia) silver and John Carlos of the USA bronze.

At the medal award ceremony John and Tommy walked to the podium carrying their shoes in their hands, Peter wore the badge ‘Olympic Project for Human Rights’ (OPHR). When on the podium during the playing of the USA national anthem Smith and Carlos bowed their heads and raised a hand with a black glove on as a symbol of Black power and defiance.

They were forced to leave the Olympic village and banned from athletics for life by the USA government and Olympic committee. Peter Norman was deselected from the Australian team, he was treated as a pariah and never represented his country again, his 200 metres still stands to this day. John Carlos said “If we were getting beat up, Peter was facing an entire country and suffering alone”.

When Peter Norman died on 3rd October 2006 Tommie Smith and John Carlos travelled to Australia to give eulogies and be his pallbearers. The actions of decent human beings to a fallen hero and friend.

For me as a young man and civil rights activist this event had a profound effect, something that I’ve carried with me throughout my adult whole life.

Regards Robert Burns   

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