harry edwards

Sports sociologist Harry Edwards, who co-established the Olympic Project for Human Rights, explains the story behind one of his artifacts displaying in his exhibit “The Power of Protest” on Thursday in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library.

A new exhibit in the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library on the fifth floor, “The Power of Protest,” explores Harry Edwards’ collection involving historic civil rights movement memorabilia. 

The exhibit aims to promote the social ties between sports and activism while displaying more than 100 historical collections from Edwards, the world-renowned sports sociologist and international human rights icon.

The collection features photos, autographed books, relics and correspondence from Martin Luther King, Jr. to former President Barack Obama.

“Dr. Edwards’ collection is one of our flagships and [San Jose State University is] very happy to have it,” Craig Simpson, director of special collections and archives, said. “His collection represents who he is through the materials that show the intersection between academics, sports, civil rights and activism.” 

Simpson and Edwards wanted an exhibition that would reflect that intersection. The exhibit also illustrates SJSU’s interface of scholarships and academics. 

Edwards said, “this area is the evolution of a 17-year-old boy, who is an outstanding athlete and grew up at San Jose State.”

“Power of Protest” opened at King library last Friday to the public. The opening date coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Mexico City Olympics in 1968.

“San Jose State is where [the exhibit] belongs. This was ground zero for a movement that touched the world. I think that’s something that SJSU legitimately claims,” Edwards said.

According to National Collegiate Athletic Association, in 1962 San Jose State produced the first integrated team to win the NCAA Division I Cross

Country Championship. 

Edwards was always active in social justice movements. 

As reported by the Spartan Daily in Sept. 22, 1967, the university canceled a football game against Sacramento State when Edwards formed a human rights movement that planned to boycott the game. 

The human rights advocate helped create the Olympic Project, a movement that called upon black athletes to boycott the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. 

The event made history when Tommie Smith and John Carlos, two SJSU student alumni, raised their fists while the national anthem played during an

award ceremony. 

This controversial stand for human rights brought worldwide attention to racism and inequity in the United States.

In 2005, SJSU honored former students Tommie Smith and John Carlos with a 22-feet high statue of their protest titled ‘Victory Salute,’ created by artist Rigo 23.

“The statue we have on campus, and the Olympic Project, which was founded by Dr. Harry Edwards who was once student and teacher. [I believe SJSU] has a long history of understanding the importance of sport and society and politics all being connected,” Ted Butryn, interim director of the Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change, said.

Edwards has dedicated his life to raising awareness about human rights through sports. 

He was the first black student-athlete since the early 1950s to graduate from SJSU. He also formed the university’s first black student organization, United Black Students for Action (UBSA). 

The UBSA led the protest in 1967 that forced cancellation of the school’s opening football game. 

The exhibition will be on display on the 5th floor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Library until Nov. 15. The exhibition will remain open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. 

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