What Was Happening In Sports for African Americans During the 1960s?

In sports, 1960s black athletes brought a more individualistic style into college and professional sports, often making white coaches and sportswriters uncomfortable.

For example, heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali’s refusal to be inducted into the army (in 1966) cost him his world championship, but also made him a hero to many blacks.

By 1968, blacks made up over half of all professional basketball players and almost a third of major league baseball and professional football players. That same year, Arthur Ashe (1943-1993) became the first black to win the U.S. Open men’s singles tennis championship.

At the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, track and field medalists Tommie Smith (gold) and John Carlos (silver) gave the black power salute on the victory stand to protest racism in America, and were subsequently suspended from the U.S. Olympic team.

In December 1968, O. J. Simpson, running back for the University of Southern California, won college football’s Heisman Trophy.

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