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Tommie Smith    

World Record Breaking Gold Medal Olympian & Civil Rights Icon Famous for Black Power Salute at the Olympics

Tommie C. Smith is an American former track & field athlete and wide receiver in the American Football League. At the 1968 Summer Olympics, Smith, aged 24, won the 200-meter sprint finals and gold medal in 19.83 seconds – the first time the 20-second barrier was broken legally.

His Black Power salute with John Carlos atop the medal podium to protest racism and injustice against African-Americans in the United States caused controversy, as it was seen as politicizing the Olympic Games. It remains a symbolic moment in the history of the Black Power movement. The story of the “silent gesture” is captured for all time in the 1999 HBO TV documentary: Fists of Freedom.

Smith’s courageous leadership, talent, and activism have earned him well-deserved acclaim and awards. Some highlights include: featured in Sports Illustrated, Ebony, Time, and Newsweek; 1969-1971 Smith played for the Cincinnati Bengals, 1978 member of the National Track & Field Hall of Fame; coaching staff of the 1995 World Indoor Championship team in Barcelona, Spain; 1996 inducted into the California Black Sports Hall of Fame; 1999 Sportsman of the Millennium Award; May 1999 inducted into the Bay Area Hall of Fame; November 1999 inducted into the San Jose State University Sports Hall of Fame; 2000-2001 the County of Los Angeles and the State of Texas presented Smith with Commendation, Recognition and Proclamation Awards; 2004 the French Government named a Gymnasium and a Youth Sports House in March 2007 in Paris in his honour.

Since the games of the 19th Olympiad, Smith has enjoyed a distinguished career as a coach, educator and activist. Smith served as a faculty member at Santa Monica College, Santa Monica, California, for 27 years, teaching and coaching and serving on academic committees. Smith has dedicated a total of 37 years to educating and teaching our children. In June 2005, he retired and moved to Georgia, he continues to travel nationwide giving of himself to all.

Dr. Smith completed his autobiography titled Silent Gesture in January 2007. He was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in the literary category Autobiography and Biography, The Peace Abby Courage of Conscience Award April 2008, and the ESPYS Arthur Ashe Courage Award July 2008. In 2018, he received the Dresden Peace Prize.


Tommie Smith, John Carlos and the 1968 Black Power protest ...

Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising black gloved fists at the 1968 Olympic Games became one of the most iconic images of the 20th century.

Colin Kaepernick Meets With Iconic Activist Athlete Tommie Smith ...

The quarterback recently met with the 200-meter Olympic gold medalist who at 24 gave a Black Power salute on the 1968 Summer Games podium.

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