Olympian, activist John Carlos celebrates Black History Month 2014

Carlos’ book, which is endorsed by the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Michael Moore and includes a foreword by Dr. Cornel West, brings to life the story behind the man in the iconic 1968 Olympic photo.

How can you ask someone to live in the world and not have something to say about injustice?

soulciti  caught up with Olympian and social justice activist John Carlos at the Brazos Valley African American Museum in East Texas on Saturday, where he was celebrating the commencement of Black History Month by signing copies of THE JOHN CARLOS STORY after giving what audience members reported was a moving testimonial at the historic Shiloh Baptist Church on Martin Luther King Street.

Rev. Richard Brown, Kim Jarrett and John Carlos at Brazos Valley African American Museum.
Rev. Richard Brown, Kim Jarrett and John Carlos at Brazos Valley African American Museum.

Harlem native John Carlos, who chose to attend East Texas State University during the Jim Crow South, was an athlete in the 1968 Summer Olympics being held in Mexico City. Carlos and team member Tommie Smith were part of the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR). Dr. Cornel West points out that when they took to the medal podium for winning the 200-meter dash, they gave the Black Power salute not spontaneously or for style, but in planned solidarity with many, including the Black Freedom movement led by the Black Panther Party after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. six months prior, those who opposed American involvement in Vietnam, and with the hundreds of Mexican students and workers who, 10 days before the Olympics began, were killed by the government in Mexico City’s Tlatelolco Square.

According to Carlos’ book, OPHR had four main demands:

  1. Hire more Black coaches.
  2. Restore Muhammad Ali’s heavyweight boxing title.
  3. Remove Avery Brundage as head of the International Olympic Committee.
  4. Disinvite South Africa and Rhodesia from the Olympics.

Ali’s title had been taken for resisting draft into the Vietnam conflict. Minority-ruled South Africa and Rhodesia forced separation of the races through apartheid. Rhodesia, now known as Zimbabwe, was then called “Rhodesia” after Cecil Rhodes’ (namesake of the Rhodes Scholarship) British South Africa Company acquired that portion of land in Southern Africa in the late 1800s. Avery Brundage previously fought to have the 1936 Olympics hosted in Berlin, Germany, which had been led by Hitler since 1933. Later, Brundage refused to cancel the remainder of the 1972 Olympics after 11 Israeli athletes were murdered during the games in Munich, (West) Germany.

Learn more about John Carlos’ life and its context by reading THE JOHN CARLOS STORY!

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