Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Falcon And The Winter Soldier's Isaiah Bradley: Who Is He?

Spoilers ahead for The Falcon and The Winter Soldier episode 2

After the first episode of The Falcon and The Winter soldier briefly teased the Flag Smashers and their desire to unify the planet in a world without borders, the second chapter finally pitted Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) against the squad of rebels. Led by Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman) the freedom fighters proved to be more than a match for the dynamic duo, since they all had enhanced abilities. From there, Bucky opened the lid on a surprising secret in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: There are a lot more super soldiers wandering around than we first thought.

While Captain America has long been lauded as the only hero produced from Dr. Erskine's serum back in World War II, it becomes apparent by the end of the episode that might not be strictly true. Bucky takes Sam to meet an old man named Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly) who gets incredibly angry at Barnes' presence, showing off his own super strength in a brief angry outburst. Their conversation was also pretty eye-opening, with Bradley angrily reminiscing about how the U.S. Government sent him after the Winter Soldier back in 1951.

If you've never heard of Isaiah Bradley, the explanation might blow your mind. He was Captain America.

Isaiah Bradley's history and the Tuskegee Experiment

Created by Robert Morales, Axel Alonso and Kyle Baker — Bradley's story was a direct commentary on the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. The real life experiment saw the U.S. government deceive 600 Black Americans into thinking they were receiving free healthcare to test their "bad blood." Instead of treating their syphilis, however, the monsters running the experiment left them to suffer so they could study the disease as it advanced.

In the miniseries entitled Truth: Red, White and Black, Isaiah Bradley is one of 300 Black soldiers who were experimented on by the U.S. Army during World War II in the hopes of replicating the serum which gifted Steve Rogers with his legendary abilities. The tests were run by Dr. Josef Reinstein a.k.a. Wilfred Nagel, and the experiment killed all but five soldiers who survived with enhanced strength and reflexes.

Unfortunately, those that remained didn't last long. Two of them were killed in action, because Maurice Canfield turned on Luke Evans and Isaiah due to the tragic combination of his PTSD and a thyroid issue. Both Maurice and Luke died in the fight, but Isaiah survived with a few injuries. Bradley continued his service, and his final mission saw him head to Germany to kill Dr. Koch — who had created a super-soldier serum for the Nazis. But before carrying out the mission, Isaiah stole a Captain America costume and shield, something which he was sentenced to 17 years in prison for when he returned home.

He was eventually freed in the '60s, after his wife Faith Bradley continuously wrote letters to President Eisenhower petitioning for his release. His existence was kept a secret from the public.

Isaiah's future in the MCU

During his brief appearance in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier episode 2, Isaiah furiously told Bucky and Sam that he'd been in prison for 30 years before the events of the series. For the moment it's not clear whether he was locked up for stealing the suit, as he was in the Truth miniseries, or if it was to cover up the experiment itself. Either way, clearly the show is exploring how the U.S. Government is reluctant to pass the mantle of Captain America over to a Black man.

Although we might not see Bradley suit up and join the Avengers, it's entirely possible that his grandson, Elijah, might start engaging in his own superheroics as Patriot. The MCU seems to be setting the stage for the Young Avengers at some point with Hailee Steinfeld's Kate Bishop on the way in the Hawkeye series and Xochitl Gomez's America Chavez coming to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

Hopefully in later episodes we get more exploration of Isaiah's history. This could easily come through Sam visiting the aging hero again, because he was clearly horrified that this had all been kept a secret from everyone.