Harry S. Truman Distinguished Lecture Series

Truman Lecture Series

The Harry S. Truman Distinguished Lecture Series began in 1971 when former President Harry S. Truman gave his stamp of approval for Avila University (then Avila College) to offer a lecture series in his name. Later that year, the first Truman lecture was delivered by David E. Bell, vice president of the Ford Foundation and Truman’s first administrative executive.

2021 Truman Lecture

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the Truman Lecture Series at Avila University!

The 2021 Harry S. Truman Distinguished Lecture centers around the book Unexampled Courage: The Blinding of Sgt. Woodard and the Awakening of America by Richard Gergel, this year’s First-Year Experience Common Reading. The First-Year Experience course will be focusing on civil rights, racial justice and discrimination.

On February 12, 1946, Sergeant Isaac Woodard, a returning, decorated African American veteran, was removed from a Greyhound bus in Batesburg, South Carolina, after he challenged the bus driver’s disrespectful treatment of him. Woodard, in uniform, was arrested by the local police chief, Lynwood Shull, and beaten and blinded while in custody.

President Harry Truman was outraged by the incident. He established the first presidential commission on civil rights and his Justice Department filed criminal charges against Shull. In July 1948, following his commission’s recommendation, Truman ordered an end to segregation in the U.S. armed forces. An all-white South Carolina jury acquitted Shull, but the presiding judge, J. Waties Waring, was conscience-stricken by the failure of the court system to do justice by the soldier. Waring described the trial as his “baptism of fire,” and began issuing major civil rights decisions from his Charleston courtroom, including his 1951 dissent in Briggs v. Elliott declaring public school segregation per se unconstitutional. Three years later, the Supreme Court adopted Waring’s language and reasoning in Brown v. Board of Education. Richard Gergel’s Unexampled Courage details the impact of the blinding of Sergeant Woodard on the racial awakening of President Truman and Judge Waring, and traces their influential roles in changing the course of America’s civil rights history.

Click here for more information on the book.

Event Details

Monday, October 25, 2021

Time TBD

2021 Event Links

Watch the Livestream (link coming October 2021)

Digital Program (link coming October 2021)


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