Forty-four years after he and Tommie Smith shocked the world with their black-gloved salute on the awards podium at the Mexico City Olympics, John Carlos thought it was time to explain why, and The John Carlos Story was born.
“I wrote the book to give my kids and my grandkids an overview of what it was all about from my mind and heart in terms of what I perceived was happening, not what was being written,” Carlos, 66, said Thursday, sitting at a table at a gate of Franklin Field signing copies with the inscription, “We live to make history.”
Carlos won the bronze medal in the 200 in 1968, with Smith taking the gold. At the medals ceremony, Carlos and Smith, both wearing black socks and no shoes, thrust into the air a fist covered by a black glove during the playing of the U.S. national anthem. The International Olympic Committee ordered both athletes sent home.
“I think it was time that the truth be told relative to what the demonstration was all about and why it was necessary,” Carlos said. “We’re still in the struggle to try to have some sort of equality amongst all human beings on this earth, to let them know that this thing was not, as they called it, a black power movement. They kicked to the curb the fact that we were standing for human rights.”
Carlos, a native of Harlem who attended San Jose State, is a teacher and coach in Palm Springs, Calif.
He first competed at the Penn Relays in high school, when he won the 100-yard dash. He won the 100 twice more, in 1966 and 1970, the latter performance – in 9.2 seconds – being the fastest posted on the East Coast.
Carlos was signed by the Eagles later that year but tore up his knee during a practice at Franklin Field and didn’t play again. He called his short time with the team “one of the greatest experiences of my life” but admitted, “Every time I limp now, I think about Franklin Field, think about the Eagles, and think about the fellows.”