At the Summer Olympic Games held in Mexico City in 1968, the American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos won gold and bronze respectively for the 200-metre event. Standing on the medal podium, they waited for ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ to begin, then each bowed his head and raised a black-gloved fist in the traditional gesture of ‘Black Power’. By expressing their wish for all human beings to be treated equally, the athletes were making the most overt political statement the Olympics had ever seen. The photographer John Dominis (1921–2013) captured the moment. His image showed that Smith had removed his shoes, symbolizing black poverty.
It also showed that the Australian silver medallist, Peter Norman, had chosen to wear a Human Rights badge in an act of solidarity. History relates that it was also Norman who suggested that Smith share his gloves, Carlos having left his own pair at the Olympic Village. Dominis later admitted to Smithsonian magazine: ‘I didn’t think it was a big news event.... I hardly noticed
what was happening when I was shooting.’ However, the protest was met with widespread outrage in the United States, and the pair were expelled from the Olympic Village. They remained unrepentant. ‘We knew that what we were going to do was far greater than any athletic feat,’ Carlos said. Smith noted: ‘We were just human beings who saw a need to bring attention to the inequality in our country.’