Lee Evans, Olympian and Antiracism Activist, Dies at 74

HeadlineMay 27, 2021

Lee Evans, an African American sprinter who helped found the Olympic Project for Human Rights after leading protests against racism in the United States, has died in Nigeria at the age of 74. Lee Evans won two gold medals while setting world records in the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.

His victories came just days after John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their fists in the Black Power salute as the U.S. national anthem played during an awards ceremony. Carlos and Smith were suspended from the U.S. team and would later be banned for life from the Olympics for their protest in support of Black lives. Just two days later, Lee Evans wore a black beret and raised his fist in a similar protest, after winning a gold medal in the 400-meter dash.

Harry Edwards, who co-founded the Olympic Project for Human Rights, said, “Lee Evans was one of the greatest athletes and social justice advocates in an era that produced a generation of such courageous, committed and contributing athlete-activists.”

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