VICTORY. STAND!: RAISING MY FIST FOR JUSTICE traces the coming-of-age of Tommie Smith, a record-breaking runner and civil rights hero, from his humble beginnings to his Olympic glory to the tragic fallout from his decision to protest racial injustice on the world stage. The book begins, ends, and is threaded throughout with scenes from the climactic gold medal race, interspersed with flashbacks of his entire life. These scenes begin with Tommie's childhood in Texas, where he works picking cotton in the fields with his father, a sharecropper, beginning at age 6. The family moves to Central California as part of the Great Migration, a mass exodus of Black families fleeing economic hardship and racial terror in the Jim Crow South. While he and his family continue to toil as agricultural workers, Tommie and his siblings begin going to school full time, where they soon excel in academics and athletics. Placed in recently integrated classes and surrounded by White kids for the first time in his life, Tommie confronts the ugly reality of American racism. Shaken but undeterred, he commits himself entirely to running, trying to escape the poverty and prejudice that is all around him.
After a record-breaking high school career as a multisport athlete and all-around track star, Tommie gets a scholarship to join the famous track team at San Jose State known as "Speed City." There he becomes a nationally famous sprinter on track to represent the United States at the upcoming Olympics, to be held in Mexico City. Over the course of his college experience, he also becomes deeply engaged in student and athlete activism, crossing paths with prominent Black leaders and organizing with his fellow student athletes. By the time of the Olympic Games, in the summer of 1968, tensions both at home in the United States and abroad were running red hot. Progressive leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy had recently been assassinated, boxer Muhammad Ali was in jail for refusing to fight in Vietnam, and Mexican state police had just gunned down protesters at a rally in the middle of Mexico City. While there was talk of a general boycott of Black American athletes, Tommie and his teammates decided to compete and instead use their platform to send a message. After Tommie and John Carlos win the gold and bronze medals, they stand on the podium dressed symbolically and raise their fists during the playing of the national anthem to protest injustice and raise awareness of the suffering of Black people in the United States. As Tommie writes, "We had to be seen because we were not being heard." The story concludes with a brief summary of the tragic fallout from the demonstration. Eventually -- many decades later -- people begin to appreciate and honor the pioneering activism of Tommie and his teammates. But before that, he had to pay an enormous price for his principled stance. Still, he concludes, "I'd do it again."