FACT has pulled off quite a coup. Next week it will feature a man responsible for one of the most iconic images of the 20th Century. He didn’t just take the photo of those athletes delivering the black-gloved black power salute at the 1968 Olympic games – he is one of those athletes.
John Carlos’ salute – along with Tommie Smith – came at a turning point for American racial politics. Muhammed Ali is most frequently mentioned in the sport-and-politics field of the time, but the simple gesture of Carlos and Smith will be a defining image for centuries.
Carlos will be at FACT for an In Conversation piece as part of his tour of the UK. Needless to say he has a book out – The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment That Changed the World.
Such boasts are common in biographies. In the case of Carlos’ book it’s not an exaggeration. And while the years afterwards were tough for him his part in that Olympic moment, and the aftermath, have ennobled him.
Looking again at that picture, while Smith is defiant Carlos looks neither defiant nor angry. He looks sad, perhaps as if aware of the maelstrom into which he was headed.
As we wind up for an Olympic celebration of our own it’s hard to imagine an era when the stakes were so high – or when sport counted for something beyond running quickly.
John Carlos in Conversation
18.00, Friday 25 May