April 5, 1976 – “The Soiling of Old Glory”

“The Soiling of Old Glory” is the title given to the Pulitzer Prize–winning photograph photojournalist Stanley Forman took for the Boston Herald American on April 5, 1976. [Over a four-year period Forman won a Pulitzer Prize three times while working at the Boston Herald American.]

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This photograph shows white teenager Joseph Rakes about to assault black lawyer (B.A. and J.D. from Yale University and a Ph.D. from Boston University) and civil-rights activist Ted Landsmark with a flagpole bearing the American flag. The incident occurred during one of a series of protests against court-ordered desegregation busing. As Louis P. Masur writes in his 2008 book about it (The Soiling of Old Glory: The Story of a Photograph That Shocked America):

A portrait of unthinkable racial hatred, the photograph punctured the nation’s comfortable illusion that the struggle over civil rights was primarily a Southern phenomenon, and it crystallized Boston’s reputation as a racist city. “

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