- Paperback: 415 pages
- Publisher: Holt Paperbacks; 1st edition (May 1, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0805079335
- ISBN-13: 978-0805079333
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 21.1 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 109 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,964 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age 1st Edition
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
From Publishers Weekly
History professor Boyle (The UAW and the Heyday of American Liberalism, 1945–1968) has brilliantly rescued from obscurity a fascinating chapter in American history that had profound implications for the rise of the Civil Rights movement. With a novelist's craft, Boyle opens with a compelling prologue portraying the migration of African-Americans in the 1920s to the industrial cities of the North, where they sought a better life and economic opportunity. This stirring section, with echoes of Dickens's Hard Times, sets the stage for the ordeal of Dr. Ossian Sweet, who moves with his young family to a previously all-white Detroit neighborhood. When the local block association incites a mob to drive Sweet back to the ghetto, he gathers friends and acquaintances to defend his new home with a deadly arsenal. The resulting shooting death of a white man leads to a sensational murder trial, featuring the legendary Clarence Darrow, fresh from the Scopes Monkey trial, defending Sweet, his family and their associates. This popular history, which explores the politics of racism and the internecine battles within the nascent Civil Rights movement, grips right up to the stunning jaw-dropper of an ending. 8 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
In the steamy summer of 1925, Detroit, like many northern cities, was in the throes of rising tension from racism as native-born whites, immigrants, and blacks, drawn by the flourishing automobile industry, jockeyed for jobs and housing in the teeming metropolis. In the jazz-age era of changing social mores and rising expectations, Dr. Ossian Sweet, grandson of a slave, attempted to move into a working-class white neighborhood. His neighbors, fanned into a panic by avaricious real-estate brokers and the growing presence of the Ku Klux Klan, threaten Sweet and his family with violent eviction. In self-defense, Sweet and his friends arm themselves and end up killing a member of the mob. The murder indictment of Sweet, his wife, and their defenders attracts Clarence Darrow as defense attorney and the newly organized NAACP, which was in the midst of a national campaign against racial restrictions in housing. Boyle, a history professor, brings immediacy and drama to the social and economic factors that ignited racial violence, provoked the compelling court case, and set in motion the civil rights struggle. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Boyle took the reader on a literal and figurative journey from Bartow, Florida, to Detroit, Michigan, with stops along the way in Xenia, Ohio, and Washington, D.C. Ossian Sweet was raised in Bartow, on the other “side of the tracks.” The eldest surviving child of former slaves Henry and Dora Sweet, Ossian learned early the value of hard work as well as the lesson of the cruelty of his fellow human beings. Early on, the Sweets knew they wanted more for their children than sharecropping in the South. In his early teens Ossian began attending Wilberforce University in Xenia. There he received an extensive education resulting in a bachelor’s degree, which led him to medical school at Howard University in Washington. While at Wilberforce, Ossian spent summers working in Detroit and, after graduating from Howard, opted to return to Detroit to start practicing medicine.
While the Sweets – Ossian, his wife Gladys, and brothers Otis and Henry – are at the center of the story, Boyle showed that it was about more than the people involved. Once Ossian and Gladys returned from a year-long trip through Europe, one that enhanced Ossian’s medical education and allowed him to study under Anton von Eiselsberg in Vienna and Marie Curie in Paris, the couple stayed with Gladys’s parents in order to save the down payment for a home of their own. Gladys fell in love with a house on Garland Avenue, a house in a traditionally white part of town. It was the house on Garland Avenue that began the Sweets’ legal troubles.
The legal plight of the Sweet brothers compels readers to examine a wide variety of issues urban areas had to deal with after the Civil War. Migration and integration are at the forefront of the changes Detroit and many other northern cities dealt with in the early 1900s. African Americans from the former Confederate states continued to migrate north with hopes of earning money and respect. At the same time, southern Europeans migrated into the United States looking for a better life than they experienced. Both groups lured by stories of fortunes being made in the automobile industry and tried to integrate themselves into life in the city.
People need places to live, and those migrating to Detroit were no exception. Unfortunately, especially for African Americans, there were few options. Although not mandated by law, segregation was enforced by tradition and more often by violence. This violence, organized by local “Improvement Associations,” was apparent throughout Detroit. It was through these Improvement Associations that the Ku Klux Klan made their inroads into northern cities.
Not surprisingly, the Sweets did not escape this violence when they moved to Garland Avenue. Ossian Sweet, filled with memories of violence at the hands of southern white supremacists, organized a group of men to help him defend his home. This group included friends, former classmates, and his brothers. Once the white mob began throwing stones and inflicting damage to the Sweet house, the men opened fire, killing one white man and injuring another. That same night, the Sweets and their friends were arrested and their plight became national news, even attracting the attention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and renowned attorney Clarence Darrow.
Boyle used the Epilogue to describe the affects the Sweet cases had on the plight of urban race relations. The NAACP continued to fight Jim Crow laws and practices in the courts, from local venues to the US Supreme Court. Frank Murphy propelled himself from judge to mayor and eventually to the Supreme Court as well. Some attorneys went back to their usual practices, others continued to fight for justice. The Sweet brothers endured their share of ups and downs. Gladys contracted tuberculosis while incarcerated and later infected their daughter, who died shortly after her second birthday. Gladys also passed away at a young age. Henry earned his law degree and worked with the NAACP, but also died early from tuberculosis contracted in prison. Ossian became the financial success he always dreamed. However, that success did not last and he never really had a satisfying personal life again either. On the eve of the Civil Rights movement in 1960, Ossian committed suicide.
The story of the Sweets' struggles in Detroit contributes to the historiography of urban race relations in both the North and the South. However, Boyle could have provided more analysis of the influences this trial had on race relations both in Detroit as well as other northern cities. He mentioned what seemed to be a common origin of organized violence, the local “Improvement Association,” but does not expound on whether or not this was a frequent phenomenon. The majority of Boyle’s analysis comes in the Prologue and adding additional context would have helped instill the importance of the Sweets’ cases on Civil Rights history.
Then, in the last intense quarter of the saga, onto center stage for the climactic legal drama of Dr. Sweet's trial, strides the Great Defender himself--the iconic Clarence Darrow...
J. Michael Thompson
October 4, 2013
Most recent customer reviews
Simply outstanding chronicle and analysis of crushing racial discrimination in 1925 Detroit, dominance of the...Read more