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Book Review: Victory. Stand! Raising My Fist for Justice by Tommie Smith, Derrick Barnes, and Dawud Anyabwile

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As an SJSU alumn, I was on campus when the famous fist-raising statue of Tommie Smith and John Carlos was revealed on campus. Since then I’ve devoured all I could about the two famous runners. Read on for a full review of Victory. Stand! Raising My Fist for Justice by Tommie Smith, Derrick Barnes, and Dawud Anyabwile.

victory stand raising my fist for justice

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VICTORY. STAND! Raising My Fist for Justice Review

In Victory. Stand!: Raising My Fist for Justice, Tommie Smith sees running as an opportunity whereas his family initially sees it as a distraction.  But for Tommie, running provides an escape and something to concentrate on despite the tumultuous era.  He also comments that he strove to be faster than his sister who was one of the fastest runners in the area.

When the family leaves the South and settles in Lemoore California, Tommie runs for Lemoore High School and finds success in several meets.  Tommie’s success at Lemoore High earns him a scholarship to San Jose State University.  At SJSU, Tommie sees major success in winning the Track and Field Championship in 1967 and begins to prepare for the Olympics where he knows he’ll have to race against teammate and friend John Carlos.

 The Olympics prove to be challenging but Tommie beats his teammate to win gold.  On the podium, Tommie and John Carlos raise their fist in support of worker’s rights, equality for Black people everywhere, housing rights, and more. While many saw it as a show of solidarity, Olympic officials and the majority of Americans saw it as a disrespectful action.

The brutal aftermath of Smith’s journey after the Olympics is portrayed quite well in this book.  Despite his athletic accomplishments, both him and Carlos were not welcomed when they returned home.  The Olympic Committee suspended both runners and the public outcry was hard to ignore.  Smith eventually played briefly for the Cincinnati Bengals and then became the Athletic Director at Oberlin College.

Interspersed with colorful illustrations, Victory. Stand!: Raising My First for Justice is a solid book that nicely sums up Smith’s career and provides context to the famous fist-raising incident at the Olympics.  Victory. Stand!: Raising My Fist for Justice tells Smith’s story on his own terms to a new generation, and inspires social action and community work. It shares Smith’s journey from the son of a farmer to an Olympic athlete and human rights activist that fits right in with readers aged 9-12.    

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