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Paying Tribute to Black History: John Carlos, Tommie Smith and the Black Power Salute

When John Carlos and Tommie Smith stood on that medal stand and thrust their fists in the air in the Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City — just months after the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. sparked explosions of black rage in cities across America — they infused black people around the world with overwhelming pride.

In this excerpt from Fatherhood: Rising to the Ultimate Challenge (New American Library) by Etan Thomas with Nick Chiles, Carlos talks about his father imbuing him with the pride and strength to enable him to take that courageous moral stand for Black Power at the Olympics after he won the bronze medal in the 200 meters (Smith won the gold).

My father owned a candy shop right on Lenox Avenue that was also a shoe shine in the back. I saw my father work hard and take pride in his work and at the same time help his community every chance he got.

He taught me the importance of being a man, and what he called "the order of life." He taught me the responsibility of having jobs, the necessity of actually leading your household. Not in a chauvinistic, domineering capacity, but in a providing-for capacity—clothes, food, and a roof over their heads. He would say, "If you don't provide that for your family, how can you call yourself a man?"

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