African American History. 20th Century topics in African American Identity Creation

Essay by gonzal11University, Bachelor'sA+, January 2013

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The 1968 Olympic Protests and the New Black Identity

The 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City came at a time when there was great political turmoil throughout the world. In the United States, the ongoing Civil Rights Movement, by this time characterized by the growing strength of the Black Power Movement, saw the permeation of athletes into the political sphere of society. The 1968 Olympics proved to be the perfect platform for which black athletes could demonstrate their place in the American sphere of politics. It was here where Smith and Carlos performed what can be classified as the culmination of the black athletic mobilization. The years of meetings and discussions that had occurred between black athletes and other leading political figures led to the now famous events in Mexico City. After winning the 200 meter dash in what was then a world record 19.8 seconds, Tommie Smith and his fellow American runner John Carlos, who finished a close third, reached the medal stand adorned in black socks and a shared pair of black gloves. As the national anthem played, the two men bowed their heads and defiantly raised their closed fists for the duration of the anthem. The stadium fell to a quiet hum. Carlos described the scene colorfully, "The American people in the stands were shocked to silence. One could hear a frog piss on cotton it was so quiet in the stadium."� With the eyes of the world watching their silent protest, Smith and Carlos demonstrated what had been a culmination of athletes challenging the status quo of politics and equality.

The permeation of civil rights into athletics was an example where the Black Liberation Movement gained a stronghold in the United States toward the latter half of the 1960s.

It was during this time that...