Unexampled Courage: The Blinding of Sgt. Isaac Woodard and the Awakening of President Harry S. Truman and Judge J. Waties Waring

Sarah Crichton: Farrar. Jan. 2019. 336p. notes. index. ISBN 9780374107895. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780374718510. HIST
When returning home from his tour in World War II, Sgt. Isaac Woodard was brutally beaten and blinded by the police chief of Batesburg, SC, for allegedly not showing the due respect to a white bus driver by an African American in the Jim Crow South. Gergel, a U.S. District Judge in South Carolina and coauthor of Pursuit of the Tree of Life, offers a fascinating historical and legal investigation of this event and how it ignited the postwar civil rights movement. The Woodard incident shocked President Harry Truman and Judge J. Waties Waring, both of whom, along with Woodard, displayed "the unexampled courage," says Gergel, essential to ensuring African Americans their constitutional rights. Truman, constrained by powerful Southern legislators, used his appointment power and executive orders to desegregate the armed forces and to create the President's Committee on Civil Rights. Waring evolved from a judicial gradualist into a civil rights advocate, whose opinions became the leading arguments for the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that outlawed school segregation.
VERDICT Gergel reintroduces oft-forgotten civil rights heroes in this captivating, deeply researched work that is likely to draw in general readers, historians, and legal scholars alike.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.


Get connected. Join our global community of more than 200,000 librarians and educators.

Get access to 8000+ annual reviews of books, ebooks, and more

As low as $13.50/month