Book: The Soiling of Old Glory

By Louis P. Masur (Bloomsbury USA, 256 pages, $24.95)

You’ve seen it before: The Pulitzer-winning photo of a black man about to get speared by an American flagpole is an infamous symbol of racist, busing-era Boston. Instead of just exploring those days, though, historian Masur offers a meticulous biography of that image, dissecting it as journalism, art, and history. The real strengths here are the portraits of the men in the frame—victim, attacker, unlikely rescuer—whom Masur presents as complex characters, all changed irrevocably by the moment.

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