Olympic Gold Medalist and Protester Tommie Smith Partners With Derrick Barnes on New Graphic Memoir

Smith, who famously raised a black-gloved fist in protest on the medal podium in 1968, has teamed up with award-winning Crown author Derrick Barnes for a graphic memoir.

Fifty years ago today, American track and field athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos stood atop the medal podium at the Mexico City Olympics and—as the Star-Spangled Banner played in honor of Smith's gold medal—raised black-gloved fists in protest of civil rights injustices in the United States.  Now Smith is going to partner with author Derrick Barnes to tell his story in a graphic memoir.

In a time when former NFL players taking a knee during the National Anthem to protest the treatment of people of color in the United States, particularly by police, Smith's story will resonate with a new generation.

Tommie Smith (left). Photo credit: Delois Jordan Smith. Derrick Barnes (right). Photo credit: Victoria Blackshear

"I am blessed to have the opportunity to share my life experiences in a time when courage, strength, and faith are being tested almost daily," Smith said in a statement from his new publisher Norton Young Readers, an imprint of W. W. Norton & Company, announcing the deal. "Now, more than ever, we must discuss the importance of standing up for what you believe in and how courage has the capacity to lead to change—with this graphic memoir, Derrick Barnes and I hope to do just that.”

Smith, who was the first person to run the 200-meter race in under 20 seconds, will write about his childhood in Texas, growing up in a family of sharecroppers, his success as a high school and college athlete, and, of course, the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City—his podium protest’s purpose and consequences.


“With protests by today’s athletes making headlines, Tommie Smith is a model of courage and integrity whose story is more timely than ever, and Norton Young Readers is immensely proud and excited to be part of bringing that story to a wide audience,” Simon Boughton, editor of Norton Young Readers, said in the statement.



Barnes is the author of picture book Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut (illustrated by Gordon C. James), winner of the Newbery Honor, Coretta Scott King Author Honor, Caldecott Honor, Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award, and others. He has also writen YA novel We Could Be Brothers, the "Ruby and the Booker Boys" chapter book series.

The illustrator and publication date have yet to be confirmed. 












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