The John Carlos Story

The Sports Moment That Changed the World
Carlos, John & Dave Zirin. The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment That Changed the World. Haymarket. Oct. 2011. c.210p. photogs. ISBN 9781608461271. $22.95. SPORTS
At the 1968 summer Olympics, 200-meter gold medalist Tommie Smith and bronze medalist Carlos each raised a black-gloved fist on the podium in protest of the stalled progress of U.S. civil rights. The planned protest changed both of these men's lives. Smith and Carlos went on to remarkably similar careers, first in the NFL, then coaching/teaching. Smith told his story in Silent Gesture: The Autobiography of Tommie Smith (2007), expressing some bitterness, while Carlos offers both grace and candor. Starting with his Harlem youth, he tells his story, placing the events of 1968 in context and closing in 2008 on the 40th anniversary of the Mexico City medal ceremony. There are great stories here, with that of what Carlos and his family endured after the gesture perhaps the most moving. More about his time spent in racially intolerant East Texas before the Olympics would have been welcome, but that's a minor complaint. With a foreword by Cornel West. Coauthor Zirin (Bad Sports) adds an afterword about athletes and protests today.
VERDICT Recommended to all interested in Olympic history generally, or the Smith-Carlos story specifically, sports memoirs, or the evolution of racial attitudes in the second half of the 20th century.
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