The Soiling of Old Glory: The Story of a Photograph That Shocked America (Paperback)

The Soiling of Old Glory: The Story of a Photograph That Shocked America By Louis P. Masur, Ted Landsmark (Foreword by) Cover Image

The Soiling of Old Glory: The Story of a Photograph That Shocked America (Paperback)

By Louis P. Masur, Ted Landsmark (Foreword by)


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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.
Louis P. Masur is Board of Governors Professor of American Studies and History at Rutgers University. He is the author of many books including The Sum of Our Dreams: A Concise History of America, Lincoln’s Last Speech: Wartime Reconstruction and the Crisis of ReunionLincoln’s Hundred Days: The Emancipation Proclamation and the War for the Union, and The Civil War: A Concise History.
Product Details ISBN: 9781684582174
ISBN-10: 1684582172
Publisher: Brandeis University Press
Publication Date: April 1st, 2024
Pages: 240
Language: English
“A gem of a book. . . . Masur is superb when deconstructing the photo, pointing out the elements of its composition that infused it with meaning, while at the same time asking provocative questions that illuminate how the interpretation of a photograph can affect our perception of an event. Equally compelling is Masur’s discussion of the shifting and potent historical symbolism of the American flag, which stands at the metaphorical center of the photo.”
— Publishers Weekly, starred review

“It’s the story not just of a photograph but of a deeply troubled period of American history and it is a compelling book.”
— Booklist, starred review

“The disparity between actual event and photographic appearance is what makes [this book] read at times like a mystery story, as we wait to hear that over time the truth of the image has silted out into our cultural consciousness.”
— American Scholar