Wednesday, 11 October 2006

"Go and tell your kids the story of Peter Norman"

Mural, house near Macdonaldtown Station, Sydney

At the Mexico Olympics in 1968, Australian runner, Peter Norman, won the silver medal in the 200 metres, behind gold medallist Tommie Smith, and ahead of John Carlos, two Americans.

Tommie Smith and John Carlos were pall bearers at Peter Norman's funeral on Monday. They remained friends after the moment on the vistory dais in Mexico which shook the world. The photo of the event was declared by LIFE magazine and Le Monde to be one of the 20 most influential images of the 20th century.

The Americans were shoeless, an expression of their empathy with the poor, and each wore a single black glove, which they raised in a black power salute during the American national anthem. Norman stood alongside them wearing the badge of the Olympic Project for Human Rights. He fully supported their actions, and had suggested to them, that as they had only one pair of black gloves, they wear one each.

"We knew that what we were going to do was far greater than any athletic feat. He said, 'I'll stand with you'." Carlos said he expected to see fear in Norman's eyes. He didn't. "I saw love. Peter never flinched (on the dais). He never turned his eyes, he never turned his head. He never said so much as 'ouch'. You guys have lost a great soldier." Carlos said that Norman deserved to be as well-known as Steve Irwin. "Go and tell your kids the story of Peter Norman," he said.

The US Track and Field Federation has declared October 9 Peter Norman Day.

Thanks to Kate_R for telling me about this mural.

Newspaper story


  1. Of course I remembered the white guy beside the two blacks in Mexico. But I did not know he was an Aussie before he died last week. This black and white (!) picture is so intense I reckon it is part of a very few iconic shots illustrating our heritage from the 20th Century.
    You're right Sally, it's important our kids remember. Good move.

  2. bv: It was Carlos who said that at the funeral!

  3. Thanks for all that info Sally. In fact the funeral was just down the road from my house at the Williamstown Town Hall.

  4. what a beautiful story Sally! I just saw a PBS special on the struggles of Martin Luther King and segregation during this time period and the Freedom Riders and all who fought for the rights of all people of all colors. This mural really symbolizes all of humanity.

  5. Thanks everyone. It was quite a surprise to learn about it in Sydney. I heard it mentioned on radio yesterday. Norman's nephew has just made a film about Peter, and he would like to know who the artist is and how long it has been there far he hasn't found out. Hopefully now someone can fill inthat part of the story.

  6. John - I tried to leave a comment on your blog but found I couldn't open it tonight.

  7. Hi all,

    My name is Matt Norman. I am the nephew of Peter Norman who has made the feature film about Pete. I just wanted to write to you after a friend told me of this blog. I want to thank you for keeping my uncles memory alive. Tommie and John have become obviously very close to me in the past few years and I know that they would be proud that fellow aussies consider this image worthy of reflection.

    With the incredible hard week we've had in the Norman family especially because Peter was really looking forward to the theatrical release of the film "Salute - The Peter Norman Story" I thank you personally for saying what you feel publically about Peter. I know that he would have loved hearing from People like you who he considered the brave ones.

    Thanks again, please think of your own life and your own family differently. We live a very short life, no matter how much we do for our world, we all die someday. I'll miss Peter terribly but I know with People like all of you on this blog, that Peter's life and stand will be remembered forever.

    By just thinking of what Tommie, John and Peter stood for during that warm October night in 1968, guarantee's that you will all live a more fullfilled life. Smart people think of the everyday issues. Smart people make a difference.

    Well done.

    Kindest Regards.

    Matt Norman.

  8. Sally, I have only just stumbled across your site, and living in London have felt the most amazing nostalgia looking at your photos - how many times have I seen this mural, those houses, that beach?

    Keep up the good work.