SOCIAL SCIENCES

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
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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.

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