The Tragic Story of the White Man at the Black Power Salute That Shook the Olympics in 1968

Posted on Aug 25, 2016

The 1970s were a dark period in human history: segregation laws were nothing unusual and racial discrimination was strong. However, what this athlete did proved that everyone should fight for equality, no matter if they are black or white. Sadly, his sacrifice was forgotten until someone decided to pay tribute to this heroic man.

1. A Dark Period in History

A Dark Period in History
Photo: chrysler.org
Because of the inhumane treatment people of color were receiving, the States faced many uprisings by the end of the 1960s, and it became clear something had to be changed. In the middle of all that fuss created not only in the US but in the whole world, the Olympic Games in Mexico City were held in October. Only a few months earlier, Martin Luther King had been killed.

2. Two Courageous Athletes

Two Courageous Athletes
Photo: famouspictures.org
John Carlos and Tommie Smith are the two athletes that changed history. After winning their gold and bronze medals for the 200-meter run, they clenched their fists as an act of protest and solidarity to their black brothers and sisters, and this gesture got them into trouble.

3. But What About This Man?

But What About This Man?
Photo: filmsforaction.org
Peter Norman, from Australia, is a champ himself, and not only because he won the silver medal that year, but because he created history by openly supporting human rights. And he paid a high price for that.

4. Australia Had Similar Laws Considering the Black People

Australia Had Similar Laws Considering the Black People
Photo: smashcompany.com
Norman was known as the fastest Australian in history, and he came from a country that had almost the same segregation laws as America. People who were seen in the presence of a person of color could lose everything, and the government's policies would tear apart many families. They would take away their children and put them in a new home with white people, so the child could grow up to be "civilized."

5. What Norman Did after the Race

What Norman Did after the Race
Photo: file2.instiz.net
After Norman had earned his second place, he was approached by Smith and Carlos. He was asked whether he believed in equality and God. He bravely said that he did. “I’ll stand with you" was his response and he never regretted it.

6. The Famous Badges

The Famous Badges
Photo: billo.net
Carlos and Smith both had badges that said "Olympic project for human rights" and they were decisive in wearing them on the podium. Norman did not have this badge and had asked for one. Eventually, they located one, so the three of them wore the badges at the ceremony.

7. The Black Power Salute

The Black Power Salute
Photo: 67.media.tumblr.com
Carlos and Smith did something no one had dared to do before: they both raised their hands, clenching their fists. They made a black power salute. Such a strong political message has never been seen in the history of the Olympics. The person in charge of the American team swore they'll have to suffer for what they did.

8. But Norman Was Forgotten

But Norman Was Forgotten
Photo: griotmag.com
They even have a monument in front of the San Jose State University in California. The statues commemorate their bravery. Sadly, Norman wasn't that lucky. And his empty 2nd place represents what happened to him after the ceremony.

9. Norman's Career Was Ruined and He Was Completely Wiped Out from Sports History

Norman's Career Was Ruined and He Was Completely Wiped Out from Sports History
Photo: billo.net
He was forbidden from participating in the 1972 Olympics. Norman was forced to leave his career behind, and he couldn't find a steady job. People there thought of him as an outcast, the whole country was against him, and this pulled him into depression. Norman contracted gangrene, which caused him to become an alcoholic. After 1968, his life turned upside down and only because he did the right thing at the ceremony.

10. He Was Granted a Brand New Start

He Was Granted a Brand New Start
Photo: files.heftycdn.com
They gave him this "opportunity" to redeem himself: if he denounced his comrades publicly he would get excused. However, Norman refused to participate in such a shameful act! Years later, in 2006, he had a heart attack and died without any official apology from the country.

11. In the End, His True Colleagues Supported Him

In the End, His True Colleagues Supported Him
Photo: files.heftycdn.com
Both Smith and Carlos showed up at the funeral to pay their last tribute to their brave colleague. They carried his coffin. In 2012, the Government finally issued a formal apology to him. They apologized for not sending him to the '72 Olympics in Munich, although he was qualified. They also pointed out the undeniable fact that Norman played an incredibly important role in shaping racial equality in the world.

12. Was His Sacrifice Worth It?

Was His Sacrifice Worth It?
Photo: upload.wikimedia.org
Still, the 1968 salute remains of the most important public acts of support for the rights of black people in the 60s and onwards. Norman sure suffered a lot for someone who only wanted to change this world for the better. In the end, he did.

13. Here Is the Footage of This Courageous Act

Share
Share
The Tragic Story of the White Man at the Black Power Salute That Shook the Olympics in 1968
You might also like
Comments
Popular
Latest