Film Showing & Discussion
Fists of Freedom: The Story of the ’68 Summer Games
At the Olympics in 1968, US sprinters Tommy Smith and John Carlos, medalists in the 200-meter race, raised their fists on the victory stand in defiance of the oppression of Black people and of people everywhere, inspiring people across the planet who were rising up.
But the authorities forced them out of the Olympics and viciously hounded them. They were harassed for years and had difficulty finding work. The third person on the victory stand, Peter Norman, a white Australian, fully supported their actions and was persecuted in Australia.
This film, using rare footage, archival photos and interviews with key figures from the era, is the story of how and why they did what they did.
There is a very important historical resonance between the Tokyo Olympics today and 1968. From Colin Kaepernick to NBA teams to athletes in many arenas, this is a time when many people have been standing up against oppression, especially that of Black people.
The reactionaries who run the International Olympic Committee threatened to punish any political protests in Tokyo on the victory stand. But when athletes wave the American flag and declare their love for the USA, that isn’t considered “political.” Any athlete at the games who makes public protests, especially on the victory stand, should be supported and defended from punishment.
An even more important parallel: 1968 was the “mad year” – with worldwide revolt against the old order, revolutions in many countries, and mass rebellion in the US. Today, in the US, this system is in real trouble, caught up in crisis and conflicts for which it has no easy or lasting solutions. Throughout this country the workings of this system have given rise to deep divisions which cannot be resolved under this system. Society is being ripped apart. Those who rule are locked in a bitter fight among themselves, and they cannot hold things together in the way they have in the past. And there have been very powerful rebellions against the police murder of Black people. This is a situation which could lead to a revolution.
We need to learn all we can from 1968 to make the most of this rare situation we are now entering.