What's Missing from John Carlos Statue?

Tommie Smith (center) and John Carlos (right) protest with the Black Power salute as they stand on the medalists' podium at the Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City, October 19th, 1968.
Photograph by John Dominis, Copyright Getty/The LIFE Picture Collection.

Did you notice something missing from the John Carlos statue at the entrance to the Sports gallery? If you look closely at Carlos’s photograph at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, you will see a shiny, metallic item pinned to his warm-up jacket. “That’s a military medal, I got from my dad. I wanted to have something from him on the victory stand,” Carlos explained. His father was a veteran who proudly served his country during World War I. Carlos wore the medal because he wanted to make sure that he had something related to his father with him when he raised his fist to protest race relations in the United States and across the world.

Although Museum experts could not identify the medal, we believe it is from one of the European military units that fought during World War I. Military personnel from different countries traded medals with each other during the war and Carlos’s father may have received the medal in this way.