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Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil…

Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age

by Kevin Boyle

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The story of the murder trial against Ossain Sweet and 10 other people. Mr. Sweet was an african american doctor living in Detroit in the 1920's. His family bought a bungalow in an all white area and a white man was killed while Mr. Sweet and his friends were defending the house. I thought all the information about the trial and the presence of the KKK in the north was interesting. I feel the author goes into too much detail about Ossaian's family, spending 70- pages tracing the family in detail back through his great grandfather. ( )
  RachelNF | Jan 15, 2016 |
I listened to this magnum opus on CD and was absolutely transfixed. This book is a must read for anybody who lives in the North and thinks they know the story of racism in the 19th and 20th centuries in the Northern States. ( )
  alancaro | Apr 19, 2015 |
This book takes place in 1925 Detroit. A black family moves into a white neighborhood and violence ensues. The story is well told and ranges beyond Detroit to deal in general with residential segregation. ( )
  gbelik | Oct 26, 2014 |
In 1925 Detroit, Dr. Ossian Sweet bought a house in an all white neighborhood. The Ku Klux Klan as well as other white supremacists moved in and agitated their future neighbours to keep them from moving into their new house. During the second night of riots, the terrorized Afro-Americans fired shots at the crowd killing one man. Arrested and jailed, the NAACP and other organizations fought to give the defendants a fair trial eventually bringing in Clarence Darrow to lead the defense team.

Even though they were eventually acquitted of the killing on grounds of self-defense, the cost was high for Sweet. While in jail, his wife contacted TB, passed it on to her baby and both eventually died. It was years before he actually lived in the house.

While the murder trial is the focus of the book but in setting up the scene, Boyle gives us an excellent history of Jim Crow and how it was making its way to the Northern states in the early years of the 20th Century. This is not a period of US history Americans can be proud of. It still has consequences for American cities today with their segregated neighbourhoods. A tough subject to read about but Boyle does a wonderful job of keeping the reader fascinated by the material. ( )
  lamour | Apr 13, 2014 |
I highly recommend this book. This book held my interest from beginnning to end. It gives the reader a clear understanding of early 20th century Detroit.

It was also fun to read the background of historic national and local names so familiar today. For instance, Frank Murphy and Clarence Darrow. ( )
  PARB | Mar 12, 2012 |
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The arc of the moral universe is long,
But it bends toward justice
-Abolitionist Theodore Parker, c. 1850s
That Justice is a blind goddess

Is a thing to which we blacks are wise.

Her bandage hides two festering sores

That once perhaps were eyes.

-Langston Hughes, 1923
For Vicky, Abby, and Nan

with all my love
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The streets of Detroit shimmered with heat.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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In the roaring twenties, neon lit the night, jazz played, and northern cities glistening new sky-scrapers beckoned Negroes worn down by soutern terrors. They came with battered bags and hope. Ossian Sweet was among them, carrying his parents' dreams for his future and little else. The grandson of a slave, the young physician arrived alone in Detroit--a smoky swirl of speakeasies and sprawling factories where progress and Henry Ford had pumped competition to a fever pitch. As Sweet moved beneath the glittering chandeliers of Michigan Central Station, he had no inkling of what awaited him in Detroit. He could not have known he would establish a thriving practice and find a wife to love. He would not have dared to imagine that one day he would be able to move his family from the city's most dangerous ghetto to a home of their own in a safer place. Nor could he have envisioned that his struggle would put him and his wife in prison, bring the famous Clarence Darrow to defend them, and launch a landmark battle that helped ignite the struggle for civil rights. B&N
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805079335, Paperback)

An electrifying story of the sensational murder trial that divided a city and ignited the civil rights struggle

In 1925, Detroit was a smoky swirl of jazz and speakeasies, assembly lines and fistfights. The advent of automobiles had brought workers from around the globe to compete for manufacturing jobs, and tensions often flared with the KKK in ascendance and violence rising. Ossian Sweet, a proud Negro doctor-grandson of a slave-had made the long climb from the ghetto to a home of his own in a previously all-white neighborhood. Yet just after his arrival, a mob gathered outside his house; suddenly, shots rang out: Sweet, or one of his defenders, had accidentally killed one of the whites threatening their lives and homes.

And so it began-a chain of events that brought America's greatest attorney, Clarence Darrow, into the fray and transformed Sweet into a controversial symbol of equality. Historian Kevin Boyle weaves the police investigation and courtroom drama of Sweet's murder trial into an unforgettable tapestry of narrative history that documents the volatile America of the 1920s and movingly re-creates the Sweet family's journey from slavery through the Great Migration to the middle class. Ossian Sweet's story, so richly and poignantly captured here, is an epic tale of one man trapped by the battles of his era's changing times.
Arc of Justice is the winner of the 2004 National Book Award for Nonfiction.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:14 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Follows the 1925 murder trial of African-American doctor Ossian Sweet, who was accused of murdering a white person during a mob attack on his home, and includes a history of the Sweet family and a portrait of his attorney, Clarence Darrow.

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