1946 August 18

20,000 Attend Fundraiser for Isaac Woodard, Blinded in Racist Attack in South Carolina

 

Over 20,000 people attended a fundraiser on this day for Isaac Woodard, an African-American World War II veteran who was blinded by racists in a vicious attack in South Carolina, on February 12, 1946. The attack was one of a number of attacks on African-American veterans after the war in what was obviously a concerted effort by southern racists to keep African-Americans “in their place,” as segregationists put it. Woodard’s case attracted more publicity than other similar incidents, as this fundraising event indicated. (His name is often misspelled as Woodward.)

The famous folk singer Woody Guthrie composed a song about Woodard in his honor, “The Blinding of Isaac Woodard.” The lyrics are included in the book Woody Guthrie, Born to Win, pp. 229-231. (Whether there is any surviving recording of the song is not clear.)

Particularly important, NAACP leaders described the case to President Harry Truman in a White House meeting on September 19, 1946. Truman was horrified and told the NAACP leaders he would appoint a presidential civil rights committee, which he did on December 5, 1946. The committee’s report, “To Secure These Rights,” released on October 29, 1947, had a major impact in charting a course for the civil rights movement. Truman followed up by delivering a civil rights legislative program to Congress on February 2, 1948 (which Congress ignored) and by desegregating the U.S. armed forces by executive order on July 26, 1948.

Read Truman’s Civil Rights Committee’s final report: http://www.trumanlibrary.org/civilrights/srights1.htm

Listen to a version of The Blinding of Isaac Woodard: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4A7A5VGjSFk

Learn more: Michael Gardner, Harry Truman and Civil Rights: Moral Courage and Political Risks (2002

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