PBS has an upcoming film spotlighting a bit of Black American history that may not be well-known. Produced and directed by Jamila Ephron and executive produced by Cameo George, The Blinding of Isaac Woodard tells the story of Sgt. Isaac Woodard.
More historical info on Woodard via the official press release sent to The Root:
In 1946, Isaac Woodard, a Black army sergeant on his way home to South Carolina after serving in WWII, was taken off a Greyhound bus after a heated exchange with the driver, who refused to let him off at a rest stop to use the restroom. 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 awakenings of South Carolina Judge J. Waties Waring and 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.
In an exclusive clip obtained by The Root, the abhorrent attack against Woodard also sparks a discussion about the dichotomy of Black American soldiers who were fighting against fascism during World War II on behalf of the United States only to return home and face fascist rhetoric that had a tangible effect on their lives, too. The term is also especially familiar in modern times, given the conversations surrounding the U.S.’s 45th president.
“This war—this particular war—crystallizes around the idea of the fight against fascism. And that means it is a fight against inequality, of suppressing people because of their race. So, you have Black soldiers coming home, having been inculcated with the idea that America stands for something different than fascism...something different than racial and ethnic discrimination...something better,” NAACP Legal Defense Fund president Sherilynn Ifill says in the clip.
Do you recognize that voice narrating that clip? Why that’s none other than the highly talented André Holland (Moonlight, The Eddy)! Holland’s voice will be the one you hear throughout the entire film, in fact.
“The Blinding of Isaac Woodard illustrates how a single individual can be the spark that ignites a movement and creates a seismic shift in public opinion,” George said in a statement. “Although his name is little-known today, Isaac Woodard’s story changed hearts and minds—and the law of the land.”
The Blinding of Isaac Woodard premieres Tuesday, March 30, 2021, at 9 p.m. ET on PBS, PBS.org and the PBS Video app.