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Victory Salute

In 2005, San Jose State University honored former students Tommie Smith and John Carlos with a 22-foot high statue titled Victory Salute, created by artist Rigo 23. It shows Smith and Carlos making a salute to human rights while the national anthem was playing during their medal ceremony at the 1968 Olympics. A student, Erik Grotz, initiated the project to recognize their courage in advancing civil rights. The statue is on the grounds of the university.

Statue of Tommie Smith and John Carlos making the raised fist salute at the 1968 Olympics.

The second place on the podium is left open at the request of Australian Peter Norman who won that medal. He wanted visitors to stand in his place and feel what he felt.

This overtly political statement was made at the Olympics in Mexico City in 1968.

Plaque explaining the significance of Victory Salute by artist Rigo 23

The two American athletes were shoeless to represent black poverty when they received their medals.

The artist included two shoes in the sculpture and his signature is on one of them. The year of the artwork, 2005, is on the other.

Tommie Smith carrying a box with an olive branch on it.

They shared a pair of black gloves, so Carlos raised his left fist instead of the customary right fist.

A tour guide waiting for a group of visitors sat on the podium as I was leaving. I thought his bowed head reflected those of the athletes.

6 replies »

  1. What a beautiful sculpture! I especially like your very last image — it seems to be having the intended effect of inviting people to pause and participate in the moment.

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