RESPECT: Remembering Million Man March & 1968 Olympics

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: October 16, 19……..

unnamed

Million Man March, political demonstration in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 16, 1995, to promote unity and family values among black Americans of African ancestry. Estimates of the number of marchers, most of whom were African American men, ranged from 400,000 to nearly 1.1 million, ranking it among the largest gatherings of its kind in American history.

The event was organized by Louis Farrakhan, the often controversial leader of the Nation of Islam, and directed by Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., the former executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, to bring about a spiritual renewal that would instill a sense of personal responsibility in African American men for improving the condition of African Americans. Among other prominent African Americans who supported and spoke at the event were Jesse Jackson, Rosa Parks, Cornel West, and Maya Angelou, along with Marion Barry and Kurt Schmoke, then the mayors of Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Md., respectively. “Let our choices be for life, for protecting our women, our children, keeping our brothers free of drugs, free of crime,” Schmoke told the crowd, which assembled on the Mall. It was reported that in response to the march some 1.7 million (black) American men registered to vote.

A number of African American leaders did not support the march, including Mary Frances Berry, chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and Rep. John Lewis, the latter of whom saw Farrakhan’s message as an effort to “resegregate America.”

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica.

 

Untitled

Mexico City 1968 Olympic Games, athletic festival held in Mexico City that took place October 12–27, 1968. The Mexico City Games were the 16th occurrence of the modern Olympic Games.

The 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City were the most politically charged Olympics since the 1936 Games in Berlin. Ten days before the Games were to open, students protesting the Mexican government’s use of funds for the Olympics rather than for social programs were surrounded in the Plaza of Three Cultures by the army and fired upon. More than 200 protesters were killed and over a thousand injured. At the victory ceremony for the men’s 200-metre run, Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos (gold and bronze medalists, respectively) stood barefoot, each with head bowed and a single black-gloved fist raised during the national anthem. The athletes described the gesture as a tribute to their African American heritage and a protest of the living conditions of minorities in the United States. Officials from the International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic Committee judged the display to be counter to the ideals of the Games; both athletes were banned from the Olympic Village and sent home.

Smith later told the media that he raised his right, black-glove-covered fist in the air to represent black power in America while Carlos’ left, black-covered fist represented unity in black America. Together they formed an arch of unity and power. The black scarf around Smith’s neck stood for black pride and their black socks (and no shoes) represented black poverty in racist America. While the protest seems relatively tame by today’s standards, the actions of Smith and Carlos were met with such outrage that they were suspended from their national team and banned from the Olympic Village, the athletes’ home during the games.

A lot of people thought that political statements had no place in the supposedly apolitical Olympic Games. Those that opposed the protest cried out that the actions were militant and disgraced Americans. Supporters, on the other hand, were moved by the duo’s actions and praised them for their bravery. The protest had lingering effects for both men, the most serious of which were death threats against them and their families. Smith and Carlos, who both now coach high school track teams, were honored in 1998 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of their protest. An interesting side note to the protest was that the 200m silver medallist in 1968, Peter Norman of Australia (who is pictured with them above), participated in the protest that evening by wearing a OPHR (Olympic Project for Human Rights) badge.

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica.

Source: Infoplease.com.

2008 ESPY Awards - Show

On the 40th Anniversary of their protest, Tommie Smith and John Carlos (pictured above L-R) were honored with the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the 2008 ESPY Awards held at NOKIA Theatre in Los Angeles.

Advertisements


Categories: History

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 replies

  1. I pulled out my old MMM T-Shirt and wore it today! I still consider it one of my most awesome experiences. I remember Tommy Smith and John Carlos doing that salute on the podium like it was yesterday! I was a huge fan of Tommy Smith. I was in the Army at the time stationed in Georgia and a bunch of us were gathered around a little black and white tv watching the olympics. I was the only African-American. When the salute went up I jumped and down and started hollering and the other guys looked at me like I had lost my mind. We ended up having a real serious discussion about race in America. Some understood and agreed, some didn’t.

    Like

  2. I was a very young girl living in Mexico City and living the excitement of the Olympic Games in your country. I remember these two African-American athletes as if it were yesterday. They became Mexico’s national heroes!!! I could say that Mexicans across the board supported that bold statement.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: