Ugly Americans

A recent discussion of employment discrimination led into a discussion of racial politics in Boston, and that led to a discussion of the chaos surrounding Boston’s court-ordered school-desegregation. This is ancient history for the students involved, having occurred a decade before most of them were born, and they know little about it. The quickest way to convey a sense of Boston circa 1974-1976 is through a photograph most of them have never seen, Stanley J. Forman’s 1976 Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of anti-busing demonstrators attacking Boston attorney Ted Landsmark with the American flag on City Hall Plaza. It can be seen here on the Boston Press Photographers Association’s website. This is the largest copy of the image I could find. If anyone locates a larger copy please let me know and I’ll add a link to it.

UPDATE:  Here’s a link to a larger image: (Thanks to JS)

2 Replies to “Ugly Americans”

  1. vee87

    Daniel K, interesting article! It’s hard to believe that one moment Landsmark was only thinking about what to say at a meeting and the next he was probably worrying about his life. The First Amendment definitely protects freedom of speech, but when such freedom threatens others’ safety, action should be taken as soon as possible to stop the violence. I am surprised that no one stepped in to help Landsmark sooner. The picture reveals that many onlookers were present; I would have expected that at least some of them would have been willing to help Landsmark.

    I do admire how both Landsmark and Rakes seem to mutually agree that they want to put the incident behind them and move on with their lives.

  2. Daniel K

    Initially when I read this blog, I was not sure about what was actually being depicted in this photograph. I did some research and found a few interesting paragraphs on one of the websites that I had come across. For anyone that was in the same position that I was in, here you go…

    [The incident on Boston’s City Hall Plaza took no more than 15 seconds, Ted Landsmark recalls. He was set upon and punched; someone swung an American flag at him; his attackers fled; he glanced down at his suit. “I realized I was covered with blood, and at that moment I understood that something quite significant had happened.”

    What had happened was partly an accident of timing—a collision between a man walking to a meeting and young protesters out to make a point, a skirmish in Boston’s epic confrontation over court-ordered busing to desegregate the city’s public schools. But in Stanley J. Forman’s photograph, the symbolism of the moment—the anger, the flag, the staggered figure that happened to be Ted Landsmark—seemed to epitomize the frustrations and grievances of a city on the edge.

    Boston’s battle over busing dominated local civic life for more than a decade following a federal judge’s 1974 order to desegregate the schools. (The judge, W. Arthur Garrity, withdrew from the case 16 years later.) Forman, then a photographer for the Boston Herald American, had covered the issue from the start. “I was there for every bad thing that happened,” he says, “and this was the climax of it—of everything bad that can happen when you live in a town that is so heated up.”]

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