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40 Years Later, A Black-And-White Photo Gets New Life


Let's hear, now, from someone else who has been thinking about the issues brought up by the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman case.


He's Joe Crachiola, and his thoughts went to a photograph that he took exactly 40 years ago.

MONTAGNE: It shows a small group of black and white children stopping their play to throw their arms around each other on what looks like a hot city street in a suburb of Detroit.

GREENE: The professional photographer posted that image on Facebook last Sunday, the day after the Zimmerman verdict. It quickly went viral.

MONTAGNE: One comment suggested that if the spirit of those children could be bottled, it would be medicine to heal the country. To find out more, we reached Joe Crachiola at his home in New Orleans. Welcome.


MONTAGNE: Now I gather you took it in this Detroit suburb of Mount Clemens while you were working as a photographer, a local newspaper there, and it was July 1973.


MONTAGNE: Describe the picture.

CRACHIOLA: Well basically, there are three African-American children and two white children. I think the youngest is three, the oldest was maybe nine. But they just spontaneously lined up and embraced one another. They seem very...

MONTAGNE: They seem like big pals.

CRACHIOLA: Yeah. I mean it seems like they were just so happy in that moment. Actually, I look at the picture now and I see there's something sort of kinetic about it. I mean they stopped and they posed, but I don't think they were standing still for too long. There was a lot of energy there.


MONTAGNE: No, it's like capturing a hummingbird. The boys almost look like they're dancing, but they look so happy. And I wonder what you make of the fact that you posted it because what, you were thinking about the verdict?

CRACHIOLA: Yeah. That was fresh in my mind. I have a print of this photograph hanging in my dining room and I was sitting there drinking coffee and looking at the picture and thinking about the verdict and just all of its implications, and just put it up on Facebook, you know, asking questions of myself and putting them out there to whoever was there to read about it.

MONTAGNE: Well, one line that you put when you posted the photo, you write: In light of the current state of affairs in this country, I can't help but wonder if we couldn't all learn something from them, these kids.


MONTAGNE: Were you surprised at this massive reaction that you got almost instantly?

CRACHIOLA: Surprised is not the word. It's just mind-boggling. I mean I post pictures on Facebook from time to time, and you might get 100 hits and a few people like it. And I remember sitting there Sunday morning when it got up over 1,000 and I was holy cow, this is just amazing and then it just - as of today it's almost 450,000. I just can't believe it.

MONTAGNE: You know, in some ways you wish one wouldn't even have to point this out but maybe it's worth knowing, you're white.


MONTAGNE: I don't, you don't know if that matters in terms of your reaction to the verdict and to your impulse to put the picture up. Does it for you?

CRACHIOLA: No, not really. You know, it's funny, this whole race issue is an interesting one. I know it's part of the American DNA - if you will - and it's an issue that we live with, but so often when we try to talk about it, it becomes very volatile and it seems, in our current social environment, you know, people become so polarized about these issues. Maybe that's what I mean when I think we could learn something from those kids, you know?

MONTAGNE: Photographer Joseph Crachiola spoke to us from his home in New Orleans. And thank you very much for joining us.

CRACHIOLA: My Pleasure.

MONTAGNE: And you can see the photo and read Karen Grigsby Bates' Code Switch blog post about it at NPR.org.


MONTAGNE: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.