UNEXAMPLED COURAGE

Event Start:
03/26/2019 5:00 PM
Event End:
03/26/2019 7:00 PM

When: Tuesday, March 26, 2019 from  5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Location: Social Law Library, Boston, MA.
Cost: This program is free to attend but reservations are required.

Refreshments will be served. Book will be available for sale and signing.

“UNEXAMPLED COURAGE . . . civil rights history at its most compelling.” — Kirkus Reviews

“. . . insightful account of how a single incident can inspire massive social and political changes.”  — Publishers Weekly

The evening will feature U.S. District Court Judge Richard M. Gergel’s talk about his compelling new book, Unexampled Courage, and an engaging panel discussion.



Sergeant Isaac Woodard, a decorated African American soldier, stepped onto a bus on February 12, 1946 in Georgia on his way home after three years of military service. Woodard had a heated exchange with the bus driver resulting in his removal from the bus and arrest in South Carolina. Shortly after his arrest by Batesburg Police Chief Lynwood Shull, Woodard was beaten with the officer’s blackjack, blinding him.

Details of Woodard’s tragic encounter soon reached President Truman. Outraged by the treatment of a uniformed American soldier, Truman wrote his attorney general the day after learning of the incident and made it clear that there was a need for an effective federal response. Criminal civil rights charges were brought in the federal district court in South Carolina against Shull, and Truman established the first presidential committee on civil rights. Truman’s civil rights committee recommended reforms, including the ending of segregation in the armed forces. On July 26, 1948, Truman, over vigorous opposition, issued Executive Order 9981 integrating the American military, marking the beginning of the end of Jim Crow in America.

The Shull prosecution was tried before United States District Judge J. Waties Waring, whose father was a Confederate veteran. An all-white jury acquitted Shull, but Judge Waring was conscience-stricken by the failure of the justice system to hold the policeman accountable. Waring soon issued landmark civil rights decisions that rocked his native state and challenged the foundations of American apartheid and racial segregation. Waring’s dissent in a 1951 school desegregation case, in which he declared segregation per se unconstitutional, became the model for the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education three years later.

Unexampled Courage is the story of the blinding of Sgt. Woodard and its effect on President Truman, Judge Waring, and America’s civil rights history. This is a story that should to be told, with all of its brutality and its redemption of the American system of justice.


This program is made possible through the generosity of the William M. Wood Foundation, Bank of America, Trustee.


The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily of the Library or the Wood Foundation. Registrants for this program acknowledge that during the program their photographic or videographic images may be incidentally taken; registrants agree that the submission of their registrations for this program constitutes their written consent to the Social Law Library’s use of any such image in print and online materials solely for promotion of the Library’s noncommercial CLE seminars and other educational events and activities. For more information contact Michael Saporito at msaporito@socialaw.com.





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