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The Blinding of Isaac Woodard, song lyrics

Song: The Blinding of Isaac Woodard
Lyrics: Woody Guthrie(1)

Music: to the tune of Woody Guthrie's 1935 song "The Great Dust Storm"
Year: 1946
Genre: Folk
Country: USA

My name is Isaac Woodard(2), my tale I'll tell you;
I'm sure it'll sound so terrible you might not think it true;
I joined up with the Army, they sent me overseas;
Through the battles of New Guinea and in the Philippines.

On the 13th day of February of 1946,
They sent me to Atlanta and I got my discharge pin;
I caught the bus for Winsboro, going to meet my wife,
Then we were coming to New York City to visit my parents both.
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About an hour out of Atlanta, the sun was going down,
We stopped the bus at a drugstore in a little country town;
I walked up to the driver and I looked him in the eye,
"I'd like to go to the washroom, if you think we got time."

The driver started cursing, and then he hollered, "No!"
So, then I cussed right back at him, and really got him told.
He said, "If you will hurry, I guess I'll take the time!"
It was in a few short minutes we was rolling down the line.
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We rolled for thirty minutes, I watched the shacks and trees,
I thought of my wife in Winsboro waiting there for me.
In Aiken, South Carolina, the driver he jumped out;
He came back with a policeman to take me off the bus.

"Listen, Mr. Policeman," I started to explain,
"I did not cause no trouble, and I did not raise no cain."
He hit me with his billy, he cursed me up and down,
"Shut up, you black bastard"; and he walked me down in town.

As we walked along the sidewalk, my right arm he did twist;
I knew he wanted me to fight back, but I never did resist;
"Have you your Army discharge?" I told him, yes, I had;
He pasted me with his loaded stick down across my head.

I grabbed his stick and we had a little run, and had a little wrastle;
When another cop run up with a gun and jumped into the battle;
"If you don't drop that sap, black boy, it's me that's dropping you."
So I figured to drop that loaded sap was the best thing I could do.
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They beat me about the head and face and left a bloody trail,
All down along the sidewalk to the iron door of the jail;
He knocked me down upon the ground and he poked me in the eyes;
When I woke up next morning, I found my eyes were blind.

They drug me to the courtroom, and I could not see the judge;
He fined me fifty dollars for raising all the fuss;
The doctor finally got there but it took him two whole days;
He handed me some drops and salve and told me to treat myself.

It's now you've heard my story, there's one thing I can't see,
How you could treat a human like they have treated me;
I thought I fought on the islands to get rid of their kind;
But I can see the fight lots plainer now that I am blind.


1 - Woody Guthrie biography.

2 - Isaac Woodard Documents and Links related to the February 13, 1946 attack and related documents from the University of South Carolina Upstate.

3 - Mistreatment of African American Soldiers from the University of Richmond, Virginia.