Friday, April 24, 2015

Freddie Gray and on and on and on. . .

On February 12, 1946 Isaac Woodard Jr., a black veteran who had served for 15 months in the South Pacific earning one battle star, received his honorable discharge. Hours later, on his way home, he got into an altercation with a white bus driver in South Carolina about the time allotted for a rest stop. The driver summoned two police officers, one of whom proceeded to beat Woodard with a blackjack so brutally that he was blinded in both eyes.

Also in 1946, Orson Welles appeared on a weekly 15-minute radio show called Commentaries. He read an affidavit from the NAACP signed by Woodard that described the incident, including Woodard's subsequent arrest and fine. Welles then gave an impassioned speech promising to root out the officer responsible for the blinding that is one of the most powerful pieces of political and social rhetoric one can hear -- impressive both as a piece of writing and as performance. Protests erupted against Welles. ABC fired him. It would be the last radio program the greatest of all radio artists would ever have.

As we celebrate his 100th-birthday, Welles's broadcast has never been as relevant as it is today.