by Louis P. Masur
foreword by Ted Landsmark
Brandeis University Press, 2024
Paper: 978-1-68458-217-4 | eISBN: 978-1-68458-218-1
Library of Congress Classification F73.9.A1
Dewey Decimal Classification 974.46100496073

Now available as a paperback: the history of a disturbing image, now iconic, that expressed the turmoil of the 1970s and race relations in the United States, with a new preface by the author and a foreword by Ted Landsmark.
In 1976, Boston was bitterly divided over a court order to desegregate its public schools. Plans to bus students between predominantly white and Black neighborhoods stoked backlash and heated protests. Photojournalist Stanley Forman was covering one such demonstration at City Hall when he captured an indelible image: a white protester attacking a Black attorney with the American flag. A second white man grabs at the victim, appearing to assist the assailant.
The photo appeared in newspapers across the nation and went on to win the Pulitzer Prize. In The Soiling of Old Glory, esteemed historian Louis P. Masur reveals what happened the day of the assault and the ways these events reverberated long afterward. He interviews the men involved: Forman, who took the photo; Ted Landsmark, a Black, Yale-educated attorney and an activist; Joseph Rakes, the white protester lunging with the flag, a disaffected student; and Jim Kelly, a local politician who opposed busing, but who helped Landsmark to his feet after protesters knocked him to the ground. The photo, Masur discovers, holds more complexities than initially meet the eye. The flag never made contact with the victim, for example, and Kelly was attempting to protect Landsmark, not hurt him.
Masur delves into the history behind Boston’s efforts to desegregate the schools and the anti-busing protests that shook the city. He examines photography’s power to move, inform, and persuade us, as well as the assumptions we each bring to an image as viewers. And he delves into the flag, to explore how other artists and photographers have shaped, bolstered, or challenged its patriotic significance.
Gripping and deeply researched, The Soiling of Old Glory shows how a disturbing event, frozen on a film, impacted Boston and the nation. In an age of renewed calls for visual literacy and disagreements about the flag’s meaning, Masur’s history, now updated with a new foreword by Ted Landsmark and a new preface by the author, is as relevant as ever.

See other books on: Boston | Boston (Mass.) | Photojournalism | Protest movements | White people
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