Civil rights

New documentary explores defining moment of civil rights era at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City


A new documentary, The stand: how a gesture shook the world, which explores how a defiant gesture by two athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City created a watershed moment in the civil rights movement, will air on select public television channels in the nationwide from January 1, 2022.

As athletes across the country increasingly use their voices and platform to shed light on the racial inequalities in the US justice system, The stall takes a look at one of the first major examples of the intersection of activism and sport on the world stage.

It’s one of the most iconic images of our time: two African-American medalists standing on the awards podium in silent protest with heads bowed and fists raised as “The Star Spangled Banner” is performed.

More than 50 years later, this event remains deeply inspiring, controversial and even misunderstood as one of the most overtly political statements in sport.

For athletes and millions of sports fans around the world, the Olympic event examined in the documentary was a thrilling 200-meter run between the fastest runners of the day, striving to be the best a October day in Mexico City. The film also explores how this event became a defining historical moment, the great personal risks to those involved, and the fallout that followed.

Additionally, the film discusses the Tlatelolco massacre that occurred in Mexico City shortly before the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, when Mexican police and soldiers opened fire on unarmed civilians protesting against the Olympics, killing hundreds of people.

Distributed by American Public Television, the documentary features in-depth interviews with Smith and Carlos, as well as other 1968 Olympic athletes Ralph Boston, Mel Pender, Paul Hoffman, Cleve Livingston, Patty Van Wolvelaere, Edwin Roberts, Larry Questad and Tom Farrell; activists Harry Edwards and Richard Lapchick; and African studies educators from Brown University Brian Meeks and Françoise Hamlin.