Media Archive

The Heritage: Black Athletes, a Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism

Howard Bryant, Dr. John Carlos
In conversation with Dr. Todd Boyd, Professor of Cinema and Media Studies, USC
June 19, 2018

For most of the twentieth century, politics and sports were as separate as church and state. Today, with the transformation of a fueled American patriotism, sports and politics have become increasingly more entwined. However, as sports journalist Howard Bryant explores in his new book, this has always been more complicated for black athletes, who from the start, were committing a political act simply by being on the field. Bryant’s new book The Heritage traces the influences of the radical politics of black athletes over the last 60 years, starting with such trailblazers like Paul Robeson, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, as well as Tommie Smith and John Carlos —the track stars who 50 years ago this summer made world history for raising their fists with bowed heads while receiving the gold and bronze medals at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. This peaceful protest instantaneously became a historical symbol of the fight for human rights, although the athletes faced a severe blacklash. In a timely conversation moderated by Dr. Todd Boyd, Bryant and Carlos will discuss the collision of sports and political culture, kneeling for the national anthem, and the fervent rise of the athlete-activist.

Image Source: Angelo Cozzi, Mondadori Publishers, John Carlos (right) with teammates Tommie Smith (center), Peter Norman (left), raised their fists on the podium after the 200 m race during the U.S. national anthem at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, 1968

Share on