• 288 pages
  • 6 x 9
  • 16 halftones
  • Price: $27.95
  • EAN: 9781592136407
  • Publication: Apr 2008
  • Price: $71.50
  • EAN: 9781592136391
  • Publication: Jan 2007
  • Price: $27.95
  • EAN: 9781592136414
  • Publication: Jan 2007

Silent Gesture

The Autobiography of Tommie Smith

Tommie Smith and David Steele
  • Author Tommie Smith received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs, 2008
  • Named one of two “Adult Nonfiction Honor Books” by The Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA)., 2008
  • Nominated for an NAACP Image Award in the category “Outstanding Literary Work – Biography/Autobiography”, 2008

At the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, Tommie Smith and his teammate John Carlos came in first and third, respectively, in the 200-meter dash. As they received their medals, each man raised a black-gloved fist, creating an image that will always stand as an iconic representation of the complicated conflations of race, politics, and sports. In this, his autobiography, Smith fills out the story around that moment--how it came to be and where it led him.

Smith engagingly describes his life-long commitment to athletics, education, and human rights. He also dispels some of the myths surrounding his famous gesture of protest: contrary to legend, Smith was not a member of the Black Panthers, nor were his medals taken back by the Olympic Committee. Retelling the fear he felt in planning and carrying out his protest, the death threats against him, his difficulty in finding work, and his determination to live his values, he conveys the long, painful backlash that came with his fame, and his fate, all of which was wrapped up in his "silent gesture."


"This is a book about principle, commitment, belief; and consequences. Tommie Smith says his gesture was done in the name of human rights, and in these pages, he offers himself up, in the fullest-the complexity, the scars, the pain, and the affirmation of his own humanity. Should there ever be an appointed time, would that I might show half the commitment and courage. Bravissimo!"
Delroy Lindo

"In a season of discontent and tragedy, at a time when there was so little reason for hopefulness, Tommie Smith refused to be cowed. Risking nothing less than their futures, he and John Carlos made a statement that could not be ignored. Finally, Smith tells us his story, a story as significant as any ever told by an athlete. Silent Gesture will be invaluable to anyone who hopes to understand a turbulent time and an act of true courage."
Jeremy Schaap, author of Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics and Cinderella Man: James J. Braddock, Max Baer, and the Greatest Upset in Boxing History

"Smith is an important figure in the history of American sports, and deserves a forum to tell his story his way."

"(T)he book offers insights into Smith's athletic prowess....When he describes the physical sensations of running -- the paradoxical relaxation of muscles required to explode out of the blocks, the adrenaline that floods the body as a sprinter takes the get-set position and the stride-by-stride account of the 1968 gold medal race -- Smith's narrative surges to life. A major aim of the book is to explain the motivation behind the silent gesture, but Smith isn't interested in trenchant political analysis...Readers of ‘Silent Gesture ’ will be left with a stark impression of the toll Smith paid for speaking out against racism. He views his autobiography as his last, desperate chance to pull himself out of the ‘muck and mire (he's) been stuck in since the Mexico City Olympics.’ Smith never expresses regret for having taken his controversial stand."
The Washington Post

“What is the worth of this book? I believe it to be one that accurately portrays Tommie Smith’s life and Olympic ordeal….We have waited a long time for this book. The result is worth the delay….Silent Gesture provides, by far, the most powerful punctuation mark in explaining one of the most historic of all Olympic moments.”
Olympika: The International Journal of Olympic Studies

About the Author(s)

Dr. Tommie Smith is the only man in track and field history to hold eleven world records simultaneously, and the first man in Olympic Game history to win a gold medal in record-breaking time in the 200-meter, under 20 seconds. He has been an educator, and track and field coach for 40 years.

David Steele is a writer for the Fanhouse/AOL Sports website (www.fanhouse.com). He has been a columnist for The Baltimore Sun and the San Francisco Chronicle and has spent more than 20 years in sports journalism. In 2009, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Baltimore’s Association of Black Media Workers.

In the Series


As an international cultural activity for athleticism, spectatorship, and global cultural exchange, sport is unmatched by any other force on earth. And yet it remains a consistently understudied dimension of history and cultural studies. Sporting, edited by Amy Bass, aims to contribute to the study of sport by publishing works by people across a range of disciplines, by professional sportswriters, and by athletes to add substance to our still emerging notion of globalization.

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