The iconic photo that shows us the way forward

Stuart Grant
children playing in Mount Clemens, MichiganJoe Crachiola/Courtesy of The Macomb Daily

Joseph Crachiola was a staff photographer for the Macomb Daily in the 1970s. One day in 1973 while out on assignment in Mount Clemens, Michigan, he happened upon a group of children playing in a downtown alley. Lucky for us, he captured a spontaneous moment of friendship that has resonated powerfully across generations and went viral online.

Mount Clemens sits in Macomb County, adjacent to Metropolitan Detroit. In correspondence with Crachiola in seeking his permission for use of the photo, he indicated that Mount Clemens stubbornly maintains its identity separate from Detroit. Still geography is destiny.

The older children in the photo would have been alive at the time of the Detroit race riots in the summer 1967 that claimed 43 lives and led to the white flight from downtown Detroit. They also would have been around for the riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968. The Livernois -Fenkell riot of 1975 was another racially charged conflict that took two lives and led to ten injuries and fifty arrests.

And yet, in the midst of all this conflict, the kids in the picture just wanted someone to play with and did so joyfully.

Crachiola posted the picture on his Facebook account following verdict in the Trayvon Martin shooting trial in Sanford, Florida. The response was overwhelming.

The riots following the murder of George Floyd also erupted in downtown Detroit as they did in other major American cities. The lessons of Crachiola's photo are as important today as they were in 1973.

Through social media, he has contacted the people in the picture and a reunion is being discussed. Maybe the answers to the problems of today can be found in going back to a place in our childhood where we just wanted someone to play with.

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