In 1946 and 1947, it is hard to imagine how many other Black men would have been as well-known as Isaac Woodard. The NAACP made Sgt. Woodard the centerpiece of a campaign to promote the civil rights of all returning veterans and embarked on a national wide speaking tour.
On August 16, 1946, celebrities including Billie Holiday and Woodie Guthrie and Joe Lewis took part in a benefit concert to support Woodard. Despite the success of the event, afterwards, one NAACP staffer noted the fleeting support for men like Sgt. Woodard, saying, “in 10 years no one will remember” his name.
Learn more about THE BLINDING OF ISAAC WOODARD, including where to watch the documentary: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/blinding-isaac-woodard/
In 1946, Isaac Woodard, a Black army sergeant on his way home to South Carolina after serving in WWII, was pulled from a bus for arguing with the driver. The local chief of police savagely beat him, leaving him unconscious and permanently blind. The shocking incident made national headlines and, when the police chief was acquitted by an all-white jury, the blatant injustice would change the course of American history. Based on Richard Gergel’s book Unexampled Courage, the film details how the crime led to the racial awakening of President Harry Truman, who desegregated federal offices and the military two years later. The event also ultimately set the stage for the Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, which finally outlawed segregation in public schools and jumpstarted the modern civil rights movement.
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