You probably know the picture. For millions of people, the image of a white teen using the American flag to attack a Black man on Boston City Hall Plaza on April 5, 1976, encapsulated the hatred that embroiled the Boston busing crisis and the tenuous state of contemporary race relations in the United States. But photographer Stanley Forman didn’t realize he captured something iconic until hours after the event.
“To me it was just another racially charged demonstration,” Forman says. “I know it sounds foolish, but it was a few hours later when I realized the significance of the picture. … I just knew it was an anti-busing demonstration that went to shit.”
Ted Landsmark, the victim of the attack, meanwhile, didn’t immediately realize that a photograph had even been taken. “It wasn’t until after the event that I realized there were any media present,” says Landsmark, a distinguished professor of public policy and urban affairs and director of the Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University.