At Amistad, we’re starting off this Olympics year fittingly – with an in-house exhibition on athletics within the wider context of American social history. The exhibition showcases correspondence, photographs, scrapbooks, etc. on great athletes such as Jesse Owens, Althea Gibson, and Jackie Robinson; the Negro Leagues; the collection on Southwestern Athletic Conference sports of noted sportswriter Russell Stockard; and, perhaps lesser known, proposed boycotts of the 1968 Summer Olympics that influenced John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s famed Black Power salute protest atop the podium in Mexico City.
Well before the 1968 Olympics, a global boycott of the forthcoming games began to organize in response to the International Olympic Committee’s vote to readmit South Africa into the Olympic games. The American Committee on Africa helped to spearhead a campaign promoting a mass boycott of the games based on the International Olympic Committee’s decision, which seems in stark opposition to the Olympic Charter’s ban on racially discriminatory practices. After this widespread public outcry, the IOC ultimately reversed its position, and the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games went on as scheduled.