On October 16, 1968, in Mexico City, black Olympic medal winners Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists in a powerful statement of protest for civil rights while standing on the winner's platform.
Life magazine photographer John Dominis captured the iconic silent protest that became a profound image representing Black Power for decades.
"I didn't think it was a big news event," the late photographer told Smithsonian Magazine in 2008. "I hardly noticed what was happening when I was shooting."
In the famous photograph, Smith – who won the gold medal for the 200-meter dash – is seen in the middle while bronze-medalist Carlos stood to the right.
But not much was known then about the third athlete, who is white, in the photo.
Thanks to a South African author, he reminds us about Peter Norman's remarkable and heartbreaking story.
Many of us know this famous picture of Tommie Smith and John Carlos. But few know the bravery and tragedy of the wh… https://t.co/S0n3983ddL— Khaya Dlanga (@Khaya Dlanga)1508064025.0
Australian sprinter Peter Norman won the silver medal that year. He was also standing in solidarity with his black competitors, according to South African author, Khaya Dlanga.
To protest the hypocrisy of the United States – which at the time claimed to uphold the freedoms of people around the world but neglected the rights of African Americans – Smith and Carlos mentioned to Norman they would raise their gloved hands during the National Anthem.
But, because Carlos forgot his gloves for the ceremony, the Australian athlete reportedly suggested they both share Smith's gloves by wearing one on each hand, which would explain why the Olympians raised different arms.
Norman expressed his solidarity for equality by sporting a badge that read: "Olympic Project for Human Rights." The organization indicated by his badge protested racism in sports, according to Seattle Times.
Dlanga chronicled the result of Norman's involvement in the protest that would continue plaguing him for years. The revelation of the third athlete's actions and consequences is truly heartbreaking.
He came second in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.— Khaya Dlanga (@Khaya Dlanga)1508064074.0
When he found out that Smith and Carlos were going to protest for equality, justice, he gave them the black gloves they wore.— Khaya Dlanga (@Khaya Dlanga)1508064130.0
Correction: Carlos had left his gloves. Norman suggested that they should instead each wear one on alternative hands.— Khaya Dlanga (@Khaya Dlanga)1508065171.0
As you can see from the photo it's a single pair.— Khaya Dlanga (@Khaya Dlanga)1508064153.0
Peter Norman was Australian and his time at the Olympics was so fast that it's still the national record back in Australia.— Khaya Dlanga (@Khaya Dlanga)1508064184.0
He did not lift his fist but wore an Olympic badge for justice and equality instead. It was his show solidarity.— Khaya Dlanga (@Khaya Dlanga)1508064244.0
Norman's decision to show his solidarity affected his future participation in the Olympics.
Australia would not allow back to participate in the Olympics because he had stood in solidarity with Smith and Carlos.— Khaya Dlanga (@Khaya Dlanga)1508064321.0
His reputation affected him back home, but it didn't detract him from his fight for justice and equality.
Meanwhile in Australia he was treated as an outsider. He couldn't find work and eventually got a job as a gym teacher in a school.— Khaya Dlanga (@Khaya Dlanga)1508064351.0
He continued to fight inequality in his country, speaking against the treatment of aboriginals and also worked as a butcher.— Khaya Dlanga (@Khaya Dlanga)1508064423.0
John Carlos said, "If we were getting beat up, Peter was fighting an entire country and suffering alone."— Khaya Dlanga (@Khaya Dlanga)1508064454.0
Things could have turned around for Norman. But he remained steadfast in his convictions.
He could have prevented his suffering because he had been invited to condemn Smith and Carlos in exchange he would no longer be ostrocised.— Khaya Dlanga (@Khaya Dlanga)1508064502.0
He would have been pardoned and been part of the organizing committee of the 2000 Australian Olympic Games. He refused.— Khaya Dlanga (@Khaya Dlanga)1508064546.0
Dlanga said that the Australian Parliament offered Norman an apology and awarded him with Australia's highest Olympic honor – the Order of Merit – in 2012, six years after Norman died in 2006.
"(3) apologises to Peter Norman for the wrong done by Australia in failing to send him to the 1972 Olympics, despite repeatedly qualifying;— Khaya Dlanga (@Khaya Dlanga)1508064723.0
(4) belatedly recognises the powerful role that Peter Norman played in furthering racial equality."— Khaya Dlanga (@Khaya Dlanga)1508064770.0
Some heroes are never recognised. But he was not about recognition, he simply stood for what was right.— Khaya Dlanga (@Khaya Dlanga)1508064877.0
People were heartbroken after learning about the person seldom mentioned in the photograph.
@theCarrieNugent @KaofelaZA @THATbianca1 @tazekins @khayadlanga I sobbed & sputtered. We always concentrated on the… https://t.co/Tztp8EFMG4— SJ Wrandt-Minne (@SJ Wrandt-Minne)1508287198.0
@tazekins @khayadlanga Wow. This is deep.— Anelamantombazane (@Anelamantombazane)1508119349.0
@KaofelaZA @THATbianca1 @tazekins @khayadlanga I legit have tears— Imperial Carrie °o°🔮 (@Imperial Carrie °o°🔮)1508283540.0
There were few who believe Australia still has a ways to go.
@khayadlanga @PizzaAbuser @BadToss @theCarrieNugent @KaofelaZA @THATbianca1 @tazekins The recent treatment of Indig… https://t.co/s6l9p8lFpz— Jessica Walton (@Jessica Walton)1508382136.0
@PizzaAbuser @BadToss @theCarrieNugent @KaofelaZA @THATbianca1 @tazekins Australia is the only country I have ever… https://t.co/R2IEcLF8rb— Khaya Dlanga (@Khaya Dlanga)1508328163.0
@khayadlanga @PizzaAbuser @BadToss @theCarrieNugent @KaofelaZA @THATbianca1 @tazekins And then there's our offshore… https://t.co/W3pJbBXZTU— Jessica Walton (@Jessica Walton)1508382358.0
Smith and Carlos dealt with their own swift repercussions following the Olympic awards ceremony. They were removed from the Olympic stadium after the crowd responded to their protest with boos during the National Anthem.
They were ordered to leave Mexico City and were suspended by the U.S. track team once they were back in the States.
But their silent protest made an indelible mark at a time America was at war in Vietnam and various cities had experienced riots in the wake of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination.
In the documentary Black Power Salute, Olympic gold medalist Edwin Moses commented on the impact of the athletes in protest.
"Tommie and John putting their fists in the air was something that Americans really connected to because everyone was in some type of dissent in America to something."
In 2006, Smith and Carlos attended Norman's funeral as his pallbearers.
@khayadlanga Smith and Carlos carrying Norman’s coffin. https://t.co/z5oxXDR7UY— Phlegm Greenwald 🥀 (@Phlegm Greenwald 🥀)1508265114.0
In 2005, a statue commemorating Smith and Carlos was erected, but Norman asked that the sculptor leave the spot reserved for the silver medalist to remain vacant, so that others may pose with the former Olympians in solidarity.
@khayadlanga Wow https://t.co/T5oVaDhtjq— Tasneem (@Tasneem)1508104330.0
Even up until his death in 2006, Norman never wavered.