SJSU Sculpture – 1968 Olympics

A famous scene took place at the 1968 Olympics. At the podium, two medalists put on a black glove each, took off their shoes showing black socks, wore several symbolic items, and raised one hand each during the playing of the national anthem. The third athlete on the podium, an Australian who placed 2nd, also wore a human rights badge, matching those worn by the two Americans, in solidarity.

There is a lot that can be said about this moment. (You can get a start on it here: The two black athlete Olympians, who stood with their hands raised during the anthem as a protest to unequal treatment of people, were students at San Jose State University. They were Tommie Smith who had just set a world record and won gold in the 200m race and John Carlos who had won the bronze medal. Peter Norman was the silver medal winner from Australia who stood in solidarity with them.

Today, at SJSU, you are invited to stand with these historic SJSU alumni on the podium in the spot where a supporter once stood with them before the world.

It is a powerful statue if you take it in. It is a powerful moment if you accept the invitation and stand with them on the podium. It is an impressive work of art. It is an impressive social stand that these men took. It came with great costs for all three athletes. It came with rewards too; rewards in thoughts, awareness, conversations, and changes for others that will affect generations.

Today, you can take your stand in the middle of San Jose State University.

This piece of art helps put into context another piece of art that can be found near by at the gas station on 4th street. It reads: “Thank You.”

Cesar Chavez Park

This is the central park of downtown San Jose, like the town square of its history. Today it hosts big events that bring us together. Well wishers and protestors have greeted presidents from here. Our annual Christmas in the Park takes place here as does a main stage for our huge annual Jazz Festival. Kids play here in the fountains on hot days. In this one place, through a year, we eat, we drink hot chocolate, we enjoy music, children singing, ride carnival rides, watch life, and so much more.

Cesar Chavez Park in San Jose
Cesar Chavez Park in San Jose
This was where one of our City Halls stood in Plaza de Cesar Chavez.

Across the street from the park, where the Fairmont hotel stands today, once stood our China Town. Also, the first Capital of California. Yes, there have been several capital cities of California. Before we were a state, Monterrey was the seat of government for California when this area was Spain, then when it was Mexico, and then when it was an independent territory. Once a state, the Capital moved to San Jose from 1849 to 1851. It had been intended that San Jose would remain the capital but due to a series of issues with land (interesting info here:, the capital moved to a series of cities from San Jose 1949, to Vallejo 1852, to Sacramento 1852, then Benicia 1853, back to Vallejo, and then back to Sacramento. Due to flood damage in Sacramento, San Francisco was made our temporary capital for the year of 1862 before returning to Sacramento. Lots of moving around. Eventually, the capital settled in Sacramento where it resides today.

Cesar Chavez Park in San Jose
Plaque commemorating California’s first Capital building can be found in the Plaza de Cesar Chavez.
Near Cesar Chavez Park in San Jose
That, on the left, is the Fairmont building where the Capital once stood. On the right is Cesar Chavez Park where once stood the San Jose City Hall.
Near Cesar Chavez Park in San Jose

From this spot pictured above which is across the street from Cesar Chavez Park, you can spin around and see a lot of historical places. The iconic sculpture, The San Jose Museum of Art which was once our main post office, the KQED building where once stood the first radio station in the world are all pictured above. If you were to look to the right from there, beyond this photo, you would be able to see the historical locations of the first State Capital of California, one of the historic locations of San Jose City Hall, the location where once stood China Town, and so much more.

Cesar Chavez Park in San Jose
Looking north over the stage from the northern edge of the park.