For more than three decades, Hank Aaron has been best known for hitting more home runs than any other baseball player in history. However, the baseball icon also spoke out against pervasive racism in major league baseball and broke racial barriers throughout his career. Despite hate mail, death threats against him and a plan to kidnap one of his daughters, Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record on April 8, 1974 when he hit his 715th home run.
Aaron is a longtime supporter of civil rights organizations such as the NAACP. He co-founded with his wife, educator Billye, the Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream Foundation to help children develop their potential.
Tommie Smith and John Carlos
The 1968 Olympics Black Power salute was an act of protest by the African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos during their medal ceremony at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. As they turned to face their flags and hear the American national anthem, they each raised a black-gloved fist and kept them raised until the anthem had finished. Smith, Carlos and Australian silver medalist Peter Norman also all wore human rights badges on their jackets. In his autobiography, Silent Gesture, Tommie Smith stated that the gesture was not a “Black Power” salute, but a “human rights salute.”
Smith and Carlos were largely ostracized by the U.S. sporting establishment and they were subject to criticism. Time magazine showed the five-ring Olympic logo with the words, “Angrier, Nastier, Uglier,” instead of “Faster, Higher, Stronger”. After returning to the United States, they were subject to abuse and their families received death threats.