Olympic Black Power Statue
The Black Power Statue at San Jose State depicts John Carlos and Tommie Smith on the medal stand at the 1968 Olympics.
Smith and Carlos at the Mexico City Olympics
To learn more about the activism of American athletes leading up to the 1968 Olympics, consider this book from the University of Minnesota.
Backstory and Context
The two men, who were graduates of San Jose State University, each wore Black socks with no shoes, to symbolize Black poverty. They raised Black-gloved fists in the Black Power salute, with heads bowed. Although it was less noticeable in the famous photograph of that moment, Carlos wore a necklace to symbolize the African Americans who were victims of lynchings, and Smith wore a Black scarf as a symbol of Black pride. The two men were booed by many spectators as they left the stadium. They were also forced to leave the Olympic Village by Avery Brundage, the head of the International Olympic Committee who saw the action of the two Black athletes as a violation of the Olympic's ban on political demonstrations. It is notable that Brundage had previously supported the use of Nazi salutes in the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin during the rise of the Nazi political party and its leader Adolf Hitler.
The two athletes paid a high price for their activism. Demonstrating the way that interpretations of events change over time San Jose State University honored the two athletes with this statue in 2005. The 22-foot tall statue, the work of Portuguese artist "Rigo 23," depicts the men with their raised fists. The silver medal winner, Australian Peter Norman, opted not to be included in the sculpture. Instead, bystanders can stand where Norman stood and experience something of that historic moment for themselves. The statue is on the campus of San Jose State University, next to Clark Hall and Tower Hall.