Review of Victory. Stand!: Raising My Fist for Justice

Victory. Stand!: Raising My Fist for JusticeVictory. Stand!: Raising My Fist for Justice
by Tommie Smith and Derrick Barnes; illus. by Dawud Anyabwile
Middle School    Norton    208 pp.    g
9/22    978-1-324-00390-8    $22.95
Paper ed.  978-1-324-05215-9    $17.95

Smith’s graphic memoir (co-authored with multi-awardee Barnes) provides context for the iconic 1968 image of two Black Olympians, gold medalist Smith and bronze medalist John Carlos, standing on the medal podium, heads bowed and fists raised. Smith’s ­sharecropper parents had moved the family from Texas to California’s Central Valley as part of the Great Migration’s second wave when he was a child. It was here that sixth grader Tommie beat his nimble-footed older sister Sally (along with the fastest boy in the seventh grade) in a race that “changed everything.” His athletic talents earned him a scholarship to San Jose State, where he arrived “oblivious to the extent” of the civil rights movement. But as a Black student on an overwhelmingly white campus during the tumultuous 1960s, Smith’s growing awareness of—and involvement in—the fight for racial equality led him to speak out. At the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Smith won gold in the 200 meters; along with Carlos, he staged a protest whose reverberations are still felt today. Anyabwile conveys great emotion in his fluid black-and-white art, which pairs well with the conversational first-person text. The climactic race acts as a narrative through line alongside Smith’s life story. The book closes by making direct connections between Smith’s actions and modern-day protests by athletes (such as Eric Reid and Colin Kaepernick), with a final shot of a triumphant older Smith, standing under an illuminated set of Olympic rings, with fist defiantly raised. “I hold no regrets…if I could hoist that fist up to the heavens one more time…I’d do it again.”

From the November/December 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Sam Bloom

Sam Bloom is a programming librarian at the Covington Branch of the Kenton County Public Library in northern Kentucky.

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