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Olympic medalist John Carlos, famed for silent political protest at 1968 summer games, to discuss his life and new memoir, April 23, 2012.

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY -- Olympic running medalist John Carlos experienced instant international recognition and personal threats for his silent political protest with teammate Tommie Smith at a 1968 Olympic ceremony. He will recount his life in the talk "John Carlos: He Walked the Walk," as well as sign copies of his recent memoir The John Carlos Story, on Monday, April 23, at 7:00pm in the Villard Room of Main Building. This event is free and open to the public and sponsored by the Department of Athletics and Physical Education.

When Carlos and Smith stepped onto their victory stands to accept bronze and gold medals respectively for the 200-meter race at the Mexico City Olympics, they wore black socks and no shoes to represent impoverished people who had no shoes of their own. And when the U.S. national anthem began to be played they raised black-gloved fists to signify Black Power and bowed their heads to reflect the strength of the human spirit, sparking considerable political controversy, death threats, and continuing challenges for both men in the proceeding years.

“John Carlos is one of the grand figures of the twentieth century,” writes Cornel West in the foreword to Carlos’ memoir (2011, Haymarket Books). “His incredible political courage, indisputable athletic excellence, and indestructible spiritual fortitude set him apart from most contemporary celebrities. In fact, his fame derives from his courage, excellence and fortitude.”

A 2003 inductee into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame, John Carlos set the world record in the 200 meter dash at the 1968 U.S. Olympic trials and equaled the 100 meters world record the following year. He was also the gold medalist at 200 meters at the 1967 
Pan American Games and set indoor world bests in the 60-yard dash and 220-yard dash. Carlos had been a founding member of the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR), initially created to organize a boycott of the 1968 U.S. Summer Olympic team over social injustice. In April 2008, he was a torch-bearer for the Human Rights Torch, which ran parallel to the 2008 Summer Olympics torch relay to focus attention China's human rights record.

After his track career Carlos enjoyed brief stints in the National Football League and the Canadian Football League before retiring due to injury. He became involved with the United States Olympic Committee and helped to organize the 1984 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, GA. Later he was a high school counselor and track coach in Palm Springs, CA where he now resides.

Co-sponsors of John Carlos’s appearance at Vassar include the offices of Field Work, Campus Life and Diversity, Religious and Spiritual Life, Residential Life, the Dean of the College, and the Dean of Students, the departments of Art, Political Science, Religion, Drama, Dance, Psychology, and Sociology, the History department’s C. Mildred Thompson Lecture Fund, the programs in American Culture, Women's Studies, Jewish Studies, Urban Studies, Hispanic Studies, Media Studies, and Africana Studies, and the Committee on Inclusion and Excellence.

Vassar College strives to make its events, performances, and facilities accessible to all. Individuals with disabilities requiring special accommodations must contact the Office of Campus Activities at least 48 hours in advance of an event, Mondays-Fridays, at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space/and or assistance may not be available. For detailed information about accessibility to specific campus facilities, search for “campus accessibility information” on the Vassar homepage (

Vassar College is located at 124 Raymond Avenue in Poughkeepsie, NY, and directions to the campus can be found at

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential, liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Wednesday, April 4, 2012