Lander Professor Featured on BBC Radio

January 17, 2014
Lander University associate professor of history Dr. Kevin Witherspoon was recently featured in “The Pacifica Radio Archives,” a history segment on the BBC Radio show “Up All Night.”

Witherspoon, who won the 2009 North American Society for Sport History book award for “Before the Eyes of the World: Mexico and the 1968 Olympic Games,” was invited to discuss the controversial Black Power salutes given by American sprinters John Carlos and Tommie Smith, when they were presented medals at the 1968 Summer Olympics.

The gesture succeeded in calling attention to racism within the United States, but Carlos and Smith were not universally admired for what they had done. Witherspoon told Joanne Griffith, host of the show, that Carlos, who won the bronze medal in the 200-meter sprint, and Smith, who won the gold, “were seen by many people as traitors. They received hate mail. They went through a rough 20 years or so.”

Society changed, however, and so did the way their countrymen saw Carlos and Smith. Today, Witherspoon said, the two are widely perceived as heroes.

“It’s been quite an evolution for both of them,” he said.

Witherspoon’s personal view, he told Griffith, is that Carlos and Smith are “not traitors. Protest is a patriotic act. You have the right — some would say the duty — to stand up and protest.”

Witherspoon called his BBC debut “quite an invigorating experience. To be called upon by one of the most respected news organizations in the world as an expert in my field was a great honor, and being on international radio was very exciting.”