Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder

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

  1. Dan Dan says:

    Arc of Justice by Kevin BoyleBoyle is a History Professor at Northwestern University and his book won the National Book Award for Non Fiction in 2004As the clerk of the court prepared to administer the jurors their oath the Great Defender Darrow leaned over the press table on the opposite side of the room “The case is won or lost now” he said sotto voce “The rest is window dressing”This is a phenomenal work of micro history I was born and raised in Michigan yet somehow I knew none of this story The setting is 1925 in Detroit and an accomplished doctor Ossian Sweet decides to move into a better upper middle class area of Detroit The neighborhood happens to be all white and Sweet is African American Even prior to moving in Sweet knows there will be trouble and he and his friends take some steps to defend themselves On the second day after moving in a massive white mob led by the KKK surrounds the completely dark house — the Sweets and friends are inside and are scared to death The mob’s aim is to run Sweet and his young family out of the neighborhood and if that doesn’t work then to lynch them Windows soon break and gunfire eruptsYet the story does not unfold in a manner that one expects and I won’t spoil it here In addition to providing extensive background on all the characters including the mayor and various civil rights leaders and providing historical context of Detroit in the 1920’s ie the Jazz Age much of the book takes place at the jail and in the courtroom And here is where Clarence Darrow enters the picture He comes to Sweet’s defense just a few weeks after the end of the Scopes Monkey Trial In this case that is at the heart of the book Darrow is at his best There are so many well placed uotes in the book that lend credence to claims that Darrow was the best courtroom lawyer of his time 5 stars Highly recommended There might even be enough sunshine here to restore one’s faith in humanity if you are a glass half full type of person The writing research and author’s commitment to tell a riveting story were exemplary Despite the fact that the title may sound like a sweeping saga on social justice this book is really a historical drama and completely digestible

  2. Kirby Kirby says:

    A long slow excellent read Each dense level the personal story of Dr Ossian Sweet the organizational maturation of the early civil rights movement the rugged violent ethnic based politics of Detroit in the 1920s the Sweet trial itself delivers the same contemporary truth in different ways racism will not go uietly if ever because too many institutions and individuals depend on it for both self esteem and profit Boyle uses the 1925 murder trial of Sweet his wife and a dozen other friends who helped defend the Sweet home against mob violence in a white working class neighborhood as a starting point for a much broader examination of Detroit's political and racial tensions My frustration not with the book but with the social reality of then and now is how racism not only perverts critical uestions of the common good but over time erodes any interest in even asking them The Great Migration swept tens of thousands 5700 Black folks in Detroit in 1910; 81000 by 1925 into the Black Bottom High demand and a limited number of places where new Black arrivals could live allowed landlords to leave properties unrepaired yet filled well beyond capacity Landlords shamelessly rented out the tops of pool tables and outhouses as the city refused to install sewer lines or deliver services causing waves of public health crises Instead of thinking through adeuate planning in a city that was bursting at the seams everywhere due to rapid industrialization the uestion became why 'they' Southern migrants chose to live in such sualid areas and ended with blaming poor neighborhood conditions on their mere arrival An examination of present day Detroit bears the mark of a decades old unwillingness to address persistent systemic issues Homebuying efforts demonstrated the same concept In the mid 1920s housing appraisers in Detroit made it official practice to downgrade the value of any neighborhood that had a single Black resident This happened at the same time that the city's real estate developers raised home prices and prevented families from building their own homes on purchased plots necessitating mortgages with exorbitant interest rates for working class whites A black family moving into a white neighborhood was not only a blow to white pride but also had a measurable and often disastrous economic effect The combination was lethal and by the time this and other related practices restrictive covenants steering were made illegal the psychological damage was done The uestion of whether to regulate real estate developers in order to prevent financial exploitation was subsumed by the effort to keep neighborhoods as white as possible Broader economic issues go unexamined; segregation is accepted as preference rather than design I appreciated the meticulous research throughout especially with respect to the painstaking strategy behind the establishment and funding of LDF under Walter White James Weldon Johnson and others via the high profile of the Sweet trial; Gladys Sweet's gumption; the homage to HBCUs and Black social organizations in creating a safety net where none existed Recently though I end up casting a side eye to the genre of narrative nonfiction odd considering I'm still working on the Glass compilation Seems like Boyle's effort could be categorized in the same manner that he casts the trial itself an attempt to shoehorn an uneven sprawling event into a symbol It works well here but I'm generally skeptical It all ends up feeling too sitcom neat but I'm still working through what type of rendering would seem authentic

  3. Chrissie Chrissie says:

    Everybody knows about the famous Brown versus Board of Education case 1954 where the Supreme Court declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional This book covers the earlier Sweet Trials of 1925 and 1926 Here the focus is instead housingresidential segregation Ossian Sweet 1895 – 1960 was a black American physician who bought a home in a white residential area in Detroit Michigan Through armed self defense he attempted to protect his newly purchased home against a mob trying to force him out view spoilerOssian Sweet as well as his wife brother cousin and friends who all tried to help him defend his property were acuitted of murder charges by an all white jury hide spoiler

  4. Nancy Oakes Nancy Oakes says:

    A fine history of a case I knew absolutely nothing about but now am off in search of info I recommend it very highly but keep in mind that this is not a novel but a history and that as such even though it moves uickly there are times when the author doesn't go from point A to point B as in a novel but stops to present factors that led up to this period in timeThe case in uestion begins in 1925 in Detroit when Dr Ossian Sweet and his wife move into a house that is outside the boundaries of the colored area I'm just using the terminology in the book here which was appropriate to the time period Ossian his wife Gladys Ossian's brother Henry some friends were over at the house all preparing to eat the first meal in their new house when a neighborhood mob moved in front of the house began pelting the house with stones etc They prepared themselves for the worst but nothing happened On the second night Ossian was ready He had gathered the same people a few at that time 11 total in the house and when the mob gathered again and the rocks started flying and actually broke windows in the house Henry whoever was upstairs with him started firing into the crowd killing one man wounding another The police took everyone in the house in custody eventually all 11 were charged with murder or conspiracy to commit murder The state contended that there was no mob at all and that Ossian's brother friends had fired into the crowd unprovoked killing a man Eventually the group was put into prison awaiting trial and were ultimately defended by Clarence Darrow That's the central case; what this book does is to examine the factors behind the allegations and to examine the motivation of Ossian's neighbors as they worked themselves into mob frenzy It also looks at racial attitudes on both sides of the coin prevalent at the time politics both locally in Detroit and nationally the use of this case by the NAACP among other issues In telling Ossian's story the author also goes into Ossian's family history as well as that of his wife Gladys from slavery onward and the history of racial attitudes both North and SouthFor example Boyle goes into great detail about the southern migration of blacks to the north and their attempts to escape Jim Crow only to find themselves victims of the same types of prejudices Specifically discussing Detroit the author goes into great detail explaining that the police department was filled with KKK members; he explains the economics behind why beyond the simple reason of prejudice white people did not want blacks in their neighborhoods and what happened to those African Americans who moved into those neighborhoods; he also goes into the politics involved in organizing a defense for the 11 accused battles fought based on this case against segregation in all aspects of lifeIt is really a captivating story backed up by personal interviews other primary sources as well as other references I definitely think if you are interested in the topics of segregation civil rights racial attitudes or the workings of the NAACP you will not want to miss this book

  5. Brian Brian says:

    This book won the National Book Award for Nonfiction and for good reason I consider this to be the best example of historical storytelling I've read The first part of the book is a riveting meticulously researched account of an incident between an angry white mob and black physician Ossian Sweet who recently purchased a home in a white neighborhood in 1920's Detroit The second part of the book details the ensuing trial led by legendary trial attorney and my idol Clarence Darrow The events this book recounts are not well known considering their importance in galvanizing the very beginnings of black civil rights leadership in America

  6. Elizabeth Sulzby Elizabeth Sulzby says:

    Such an important book for understanding complex and often hidden parts of race relations in the USA Boyle starts with the Civil War and the immediate aftermath when our national parties were the opposite of their stances today The Republicans were for Civil Rights and reconstructing the renegade South The Democrats were for conserving isn't that a cute play on the word conservative the idealized myth of life on the plantations with slaves and masters in loving relationships economic security or wealth everything and everything in its place with God at the helm Boyle's is such an expansion on what I had studied read learned before The switch between Republican and Democrats has always amazed me but Boyle documents many intricate aspects most of which I won't go into hereThis is a book that I have been reading for the past 3 or so weeks not because of lack of interest This is one of those non fiction books that I have to stop and digest talk to my friends about Facebook about but mostly cogitate on It is a story of Jim Crow as it existed in the South and then the North Nothing about Joe Turner as in August Wilson's play Joe Turner's been here and gone about slave bounty hunters and enforcers It is a story of property ownership amount of landhouse available to blacks or whites elite or working peopleI love the way he weaves in the history of the NAACP with one of my heroes James Weldon Johnson The Talented Tenth in Detroit were a group of elite black activists that I had never heard of Back with the NAACP in New York Boyle began to sketch in the history of the Urban League and its missions in relation to the NAACP He includes the strains and rivalry between James Weldon Johnson and WEB DuBois And much all played out around the story of the life of Ossian Sweet a black boy whose poor but aspiring family sent him up North to get a real education I learned about the reputation of different Negro colleges when Ossian's choice of school included remedial education at the high school level and college life in a poor struggling midwest Negro college but with mentors who opened his mind and aspirations to medical school at prestigious Howard University I may add here laterSkip to the chase Ossian Sweet MD well educated and with some connections to the Talented Tenth to whom to know at the NAACP and eventually to Clarence Darrow and his wife move into a small but nice cottage in a white neighborhood close to Sweet's practice The second night after moving in the white gangs move in override the police guards and start yelling and throwing rocks at the Sweet house Inside the house Sweet and 9 other men were prepared to defend the home with guns and ammunition Some one or ones shoot at the crowd probably in panic killing one white man and badly wounding another The Ossian Sweet Trial is important in American legal and socioeconomic history as I am learning End of readingThis book held me till then end yet I did not read much at a time or race to finish it The ending just now came upon me suddenly The book has a good chunk of reference notes bibliography subject index etc Without going into the trial and its aftermath I will conclude that the author described inner workings of the organizations the proponents and antagonists and Ossian and Gladys Sweet's conflicts with the skill of storytelling he carried throughout But the ending is like our nation's trip through de segregation and Civil Rights bittersweet one step forward two back two to three sideways then maybe three forward and on and on In 2011 we have been seeing and hearing the horrible racists comments actions and even laws that we thought no one would utter in public any But boldly are they stated Now we see the re emergence of the poll tax and educational testing for voting Ah woe

  7. Benjamin Israel Benjamin Israel says:

    Boyle may be an academic historian but he writes like a novelist It takes a great story African Americans asserting their rights and defending them with guns and puts it into historical context There are no saintly heroes in this book but real sometimes conflicted peopleBasically it's about a young African American physician in Detroit in the early 1920s who wants to move out of his all black overcrowded neighborhood and buys a house in a white neighborhood After numerous threats and while holed up in his house surrounded by a menacing rock throwing crowd he organizes a group of friends to defend his home One of his friends fires into the crowd and kills a teenager He and his friends are tried for murder and the NAACP mobilizes support for him nationally while Clarence Darrow defends him in courtThe book debunks several widespread myths that the civil rights movement started with the Montgomery Bus Boycott and that it was a nonviolent movement before Robert Williams or Malcolm X or Stokely Carmichael Read it

  8. BookishStitcher BookishStitcher says:

    It took me almost two months to finish this book The subject was heartbreaking and interesting but the writing style just never pulled me in I learned so many new things while reading this The one that I most hope to explore some is about the lawyer Clarence Darrow I hadn't heard of him before partly because it was so much before my time and mainly because I was never a law student I imagine that he is often held up as an example to students studying law I would love to read about him The very end of this book meaning exactly the last sentence was so sad To have accomplished so much but have ended his life with nothing left but hopelessness

  9. Yasmin Yasmin says:

    Although there has been the criticism that this is a long laborious book that is exactly how the events in real life played out Kevin Boyle does a fantastic job with his research and recreating history for the reader Even though the final sentence of the denouement is utterly tragic it is a marvellous book The background of the people primarily involved is laid bare and all of it well worth a read No matter if for some it seems sluggish you won't be disappointed you started with this book and kept with it

  10. Barbara Barbara says:

    An extremely well written book about the Ossian Sweet case about which I knew nothing Dr Sweet an African American moved into a home in a white neighborhood of Detroit in 1925 A mob gathered to force him out He and some friends fired into the mob in self defense and killed a white man They were arrested and tried for murder Eventually through the efforts of the NAACP James Weldon Johnson Clarence Darrow and others they were acuitted Author Kevin Boyle told this story in a fascinating way that kept me eagerly turning pages to see how it would all turn out I found the book especially interesting because of its attention to the history and growth of Detroit at this time My grandfather was a first generation American of Slovak descent living in Detroit at the time of the Sweet Case He had come to the rapidly growing Detroit a few years before the Great Migration that brought so many blacks north The book made me wonder what prejudices he faced himself and what prejudices he might have had He was an autoworker who never spoke of his Slovak roots and always passed as an American He and my grandmother were longtime subscribers to the Detroit Free Press described here as the newspaper of the working class and very racist Arc of Justice would have fascinated me in any case but the family history connection made it personally relevantIt would be nice to think that the acuittal of Dr Sweet and his friends ushered in a new era of justice but the later history of Detroit and our current racist administration certainly don't bear that out We still have a long way to go

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Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age ❮Download❯ ➼ Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age Author Kevin G. Boyle – An electrifying story of the sensational murder trial that divided a city and ignited the civil rights struggleIn 1925 Detroit was a smoky swirl of jazz and speakeasies assembly lines and fistfights T An electrifying story of Justice: A eBook ´ the sensational murder trial that divided a city and ignited the civil rights struggleIn Detroit was a smoky swirl of jazz and speakeasies assembly lines and fistfights The Arc of Kindle - 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 Justice: A PDF Å 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; of Justice: A Saga of MOBI :Ê suddenly shots rang out Sweet or one of his defenders had accidentally killed one of the whites threatening their lives and homesAnd 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 euality 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 of Justice: A Saga of MOBI :Ê volatile America of the s 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 National Book Award for Nonfiction.

  • Paperback
  • 448 pages
  • Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age
  • Kevin G. Boyle
  • English
  • 04 August 2015
  • 9780805079333

About the Author: Kevin G. Boyle

Kevin Gerard Boyle is Justice: A eBook ´ the William Smith Mason Professor of American History at Northwestern University.