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Culture > News

Olympic Black Power Statue

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SJSU chapter.

Walking around campus, you will easily notice the 22-foot-tall Olympic Black Power Statue, located on San Jose State’s Tower Lawn, across the Robert D Clark Hall. The statue is an important legacy that symbolizes a pivotal moment in the history of civil rights and honors two former San José State University students.

On October 16, 1968, Tommie Smith placed first place, and John Carlos placed third in the 200-meter dash finals at the Mexico City Olympic games. While the American National Anthem played during the awards ceremony, Smith and Carlos raised their black-gloved fists in a Black Power salute and removed their shoes to symbolize Black poverty.

This silent protest was intended to draw global attention to the injustice and inequality that African Americans were facing. Despite the boos and heavy criticism by the crowds, the two protesters remained resilient. Smith and Carlos kept their hands raised high until the national anthem was finished.

In 2005, San Jose State University honored the two alumni with a 22-foot-high statue of their protest, sculpted by the Portuguese artist known as Rigo 23. The faces of the statues are undeniably realistic and emotional, as it tells a compelling story. The uniforms of the statues were designed with a mosaic of dark blue ceramic tiles, while the stripes of the tracksuits were detailed in a red and white ceramic-colored tile.

The defiant gesture of Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics deserves recognition as it demonstrates activism, bravery, an important moment of history, and the long struggles for racial equality.

Olympic Black Power Statue New York Times

Here is a video that summarizes more about the iconic protest: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ACXn-BDog8

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