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

by Kevin Boyle

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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 |
Loved this book. A black family moves into an all-white neighborhood. They and their friends are threatened, defend themselves, are charged with murder, and...well, read it to find out what happens. Boyle does an excellent job of taking the reader back to a time that seems both "long ago" and "just yesterday." ( )
  RebeccaReader | Aug 29, 2008 |
3976. Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age, by Kevin Boyle (read 21 Jan 2005) This was 2004's winner of the National Book award for nonfiction. It tells of Dr. Ossian Sweet, who was a black who bought a house in a white area in Detroit in 1925 and when he went to move in a threatening mob gathered at the house. A shot was fired from the house and all eleven people in it were charged with murder and jailed. Clarence Darrow represented the defendants and the account of the trial ensuing is enthralling. The judge before whom the case was tried was Supreme Court Justice-to-be Frank Murphy. The book is excellently researched and while the first part of the book is not too attention-holding (I thought the author might have tried to be more objective, much as one agrees with his politically correct view) but on balance the book is well worth reading--even though the author is not a lawyer (and sometimes it shows). ( )
  Schmerguls | Oct 14, 2007 |
This is a story of events that led to a significant episode in the history of race relations in this country as well as a study of how the two most outstanding players, Ossian Sweet and Clarence Darrow wore their mantles of heroism. ( )
  fieldsli | May 26, 2007 |
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Epigraph
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
Dedication
For Vicky, Abby, and Nan

with all my love
First words
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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:35:55 -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.

» see all 3 descriptions

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