Gold medalist Tommie Smith (center) and bronze medalist John Carlos (right) showing the raised fist on the podium after the 200 m race at the 1968 Summer Olympics.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the world of athletics became increasingly political. Professionals such as Muhammad Ali, Bill Russell, Jim Brown, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar began to speak out on political issues. Sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave a Black Power salute atop the podium at the 1968 Summer Olympics.

Created in the early 1970s, Lyllye Reynolds-Parker recalls Afro Duck as a sign of pride in the Black community. Today, some students feel the Afro Duck plays into the racist stereotype that all Black students are athletes.
Image courtesy of Mark Cullen

In 1969, Oregon State University Black Student Union members walked off in protest when football coach Dee Andros threatened to cut student athlete Fred Milton over a rules infraction.

Image credit: OSU Libraries Special Collections and Archives Research Center

Mel Renfro

A graduate of Jefferson High School in the mid-1950s, Mel Renfro went to the University of Oregon where he excelled in track and football in the early 1960s. He went on to play professional football for the Dallas Cowboys for 14 years, and became a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. While Renfro was at Oregon, the team travelled to Houston to take on Rice University in 1962. The Texas college lifted a ban on allowing African American spectators to accommodate Renfro’s family.

Image credit: Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon

Herman Brame

Herman Brame went to Jefferson High School and went on to excel in tack at the University of Oregon. Brame also authored The Long Ebony Line, a book celebrating Africa American athletes of Oregon in the 1960s and 70s.

Image credit: Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon

All-American Relay Team

The University of Oregon’s relay team took second place in the All-American mile relay at the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women meet in 1979.

From left to right: Melanie Batiste, Dawna Rose, Rhonda Massey, and Debbie Adams

Image credit: Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon

Ahmad Rashad

Portland native Robert Moore became a football star at the University of Oregon. Moore went on to be the 4th round draft pick in 1972 and played for the St. Louis Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, and Minnesota Vikings, where he earned four Pro Bowl selections. While with the Cardinals, Moore converted to Islam and changed his name to Ahmad Rashad. The Cardinals benched the star, and Rashad confronted the organization with a “play me or trade me” ultimatum. The team relented. Rashad went on to become a popular sports broadcaster.

Otis Davis

University of Oregon track star Otis Davis won the 400-meter Olympic Gold Medal in the 1960 Olympic Games with a time of 44.9 seconds. He was the first to run the event under 45 seconds. He also anchored the Gold Medal team in the 4 x 400-meter relay.