the cost of bravery

50 years ago today Life photographer, John Dominis,
captured one of the most iconic images ever taken at an Olympic Games.

smith, norman, carlos 1968 olympics - John Dominos.jpg

The message in the image was powerful - expressed peacefully without violence, hate or weapons. Tommie Smith (USA - gold), Peter Norman (Australia - silver) & John Carlos (USA - bronze) were making a stand for civil & human rights. As the Star-Spangled Banner began to play, Smith & Carlos bowed their heads & raised their gloved fists for the duration of the anthem. Norman joined his fellow African American athletes and wore the same badge of support that Smith & Carlos donned - the ‘Olympic Project for Human Rights’ badge.

This powerful & much-needed stand, played out on a public stage for the world to see, cost these three elite athletes dearly. Their personal expression for civil & human rights in the US, South Africa, Australia & across the globe, changed their lives forever. Their brave and passionate act highlighted a global struggle and gave a voice to millions around the world - for the length of the anthem. Those two minutes on the podium bought Smith, Norman & Carlos a lifetime of their own grief from governments, the public, haters with death threats, the feds & the media… just because they believed in equal rights for all.

dr tommie smith atlanta emma j starr High talk.JPG

During my recent trip to Atlanta I had the honor of meeting Dr Tommie Smith after a moving talk he gave, alongside artist Glenn Kaino, at the HIGH Museum of Art. We chatted briefly about Peter Norman who was from my home town of Melbourne, Australia.

I expressed my respect to Dr Smith for traveling to Australia with Carlos to attend Norman’s funeral in 2006. It was both heartbreaking & heartwarming to see footage of these two men as lead pall bearers for their dear friend of nearly 40 years.

The Australian Government made an official posthumous apology to Peter Norman in 2012. If only he had of been alive to hear it.

Apology Excerpt:
That this House; Acknowledges the bravery of Peter Norman in donning an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge on the podium, in solidarity with African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who gave the black power salute;

Apologises to Peter Norman for the wrong done by Australia in failing to send him to the 1972 Munich Olympics, despite repeatedly qualifying; and Belatedly recognises the powerful role that Peter Norman played in furthering racial equality.”

• Norman still holds the Australian 200 mt record from the 1968 Olympics •


With Drawn Arms
is a current exhibition at the High Museum in Atlanta.
It features the work of artists
Glenn Kaino & Dr Tommie Smith & is inspired by the 1968 Olympic event.
The exhibition runs until Feb 2019.