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

3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  67 ratings  ·  15 reviews
Sometimes a moment can change history. This one took 1/250th of a second.

Boston, April 5, 1976. As the city simmered with racial tension over forced school busing, newsman Stanley Forman hurried to City Hall to photograph that day’s protest, arriving just in time to snap the image that his editor would title “The Soiling of Old Glory.” T he photo made headlines across the...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published December 23rd 2008 by Bloomsbury Press (first published April 1st 2008)
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Dana Stabenow
On April 5, 1976, a white man attacked a black man with an American flag on a pole. By great good luck -- or bad, depending on your point of view -- Boston's Herald American photographer, Stanley Forman, was standing in the right place at the right time -- or wrong, see above -- with his finger on the shutter of his camera. The resulting photograph was reprinted around the world and won the Pulitzer Prize, and pretty much stopped busing in Boston dead in its tracks.

This book tells the story behi...more
Sandy D.
First of all, here's the photo: http://www.umass.edu/legal/Hilbink/lp...

Boston, anti-busing rally, 1976 (the Bicentennial overabundance of flag imagery made the photo even more shocking at the time, I think)

Masur takes this Pulitzer-winning photo as a wonderful starting part and examines who was in the picture, what led them to that place and time and their actions on that day, how the photographer got the shot, a history of segregation in education, the controversy over school busing to desegre...more
Sara
I was very disappointed in this book. I thought it started out well, then veered into a very very long discussion about "relevant" works of art. I love art, as you all know, but I thought the whole middle section was a bit overblown. I think it could be two books, one about the Busing context of the photo, and one about the art history context of the photo. It seems like they smushed two together, in my opinion, unsuccessfully.
debbie
i'm halfway through this book and i just began it today...it is a fascinating and very interesting look at a photo that is taken in boston in 1975 which shows a black man being beaten by white protesters...one of the protesters is holding an american flag...the book talks about the taking of the photo, boston's history of racial unrest, and the history of the flag, old glory...
Todd
Who would have guessed you could write 240 pages about one photograph? Well, you can't, but you can write 240 pages about where it was, the times in which it was taken, the people involved, the circumstances, what resulted from it being taken, and so on. And there's a lot to say.

This predates my arriving in Boston by about five years, but the aftermath was still unfolding well after I got here, so I do know much of the story and know a few of the people involved. (Jimmy Kelly was my city counci...more
Byron
Got this for free a while back and I was kinda dreading reading it. Why would I want to read an entire book about a photograph? What could it possibly tell me that I couldn't already figure out just from looking at it? Was it going to somehow convince me that a black guy getting impaled by an American flag is somehow a good thing? (It's certainly amusing, uh, in a sense.) Turns out I was wrong. The story of the events leading up to the famous photograph, the people involved, and its aftermath, i...more
Amy
I picked up this book because a grad school (teaching) professor had recommended it. I am too young to remember/have lived through busing in Boston so I was interested to read something about it. On the one hand, this books goes into WAY too much detail in parts, over-explaining things that don't need quite so much explanation and in other places, leaving quite a few gaps. Overall, I think I'd have preferred it if each chapter had been an interview with someone who had been a part of or affected...more
Jeff
This photograph, taken at the height of Boston’s busing crisis, still retains its power to shock more than 30 years later. Masur’s study of the picture and the incident where it was taken — by no means as simple as it appears at first glance — illuminates the history of that time as well or better than some far longer books do. At once an analysis of the uses to which an image can be put, an examination of the meaning of the American flag in popular culture, and a meditation on how far we’ve com...more
Margaret Sankey
Well-done microhistory, centered on a striking moment in 1970s school integration in Boston, with Masur explaining what led up to the confrontation so ugly that it involved an enraged white working class man hurling an American flag like a javelin at a white collar African-American working in the downtown municipal offices during a rabid protest. The image itself was shocking and influential, and then Masur tracks down the participants 30 years later and gets their matured and thoughtful account...more
Beth
I was only 5 when this photo was taken so I do not have any personal memories of this event. The first half of the book was very interesting as the actual events are described leading up to the assault. I really appreciated the photographs included so I could see what was being discussed. The second part of the book was less interesting because it was more of a history of the symbolism of the flag etc. But over all a interesting book with details of how the main participants were affected by the...more
Jon
Ignore the pompous title (which was the name given by photographer Stan Forman to the photo this book is about)--this book is living history. Masur does a great job of telling the stories of three Bostonians involved in that city's school-busing crisis of the 70s--Forman, anti-busing protester Joseph Rakes, and attorney-activist Ted Landsmark. Fascinating and very well written, this ranks with Paul Cowan's fine piece on the same topic, included in Cowan's collection THE TRIBES OF AMERICA.
Steve
I asked my upcoming U.S. history students to read this as a summer read. It's the story of an iconic photograph and tells the story of how it was interpreted and misinterpreted as well as setting it in context of other famous images of the American flag. The specific context is the Boston busing saga of the 1970s but it's a great example of looking at one specific text/document/artifact and being able to tell a much larger story from this one specific images.
Marvin King
Four stars primarily because of the topic. If you're familiar with the busing struggle in the 60s and 70s, much of the book is old ground. However, learning about the lives of the central characters in the photograph is quite illuminating, as is learning about the photographer. Not being a photographer I appreciated the sections dealing with the quality of the photo itself and its comparison to other iconic photos featuring Old Glory. It's a short and easy read.
Adam
interesting history of the event, good for photo buffs
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