"In the Roaring Twenties, neon lit the night, jazz played, and in northern cities glistening new skyscrapers beckoned Negroes worn down by southern 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 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 that 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 to hold on to this home, his greatest pride, would lead to his indictment in a murder case that 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." "Historian Kevin Boyle uses the story of Sweet, caught in the grip of history, to explore America in 1925, when the Klan moved north to incite hatred, and a new organization called the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) - led by W. E. B. Du Bois and his Talented Tenth - rallied blacks to raise their voices and to begin the march toward equality, dignity, and self-respect." "Boyle captures the streets of Detroit as the were, introducing a gallery of characters from both the white and black communities. He pulls us into the riot that threatened the Sweets' home and the events - following a white neighbor's shooting - that led to the couple's indictments for murder, and the ensuing highly politicized police investigation. Using testimonies, court documents, and his own extensive research, Boyle moves from prosecutors to defenders, piecing together the citywide cover-up intended to convict and punish the Sweets, while simultaneously charting the NAACP's defense campaign." "With the opening of the Sweets' trial and the appearance of legal genius Darrow - whose theatrics and fiery passion made him a ferocious defender of the oppressed - Boyle's narrative becomes courtroom drama at it finest. Capturing the tense, often surprising legal battle, Boyle takes us through the intricate face-offs between the wily Darrow and the adept, utterly determined prosecutors, re-creating the scenes the drew the attention of all Americans to the plight of Doctor Sweet and his wife."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved
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'sstory, so richly and poignantly captured here, is an epic tale of one man trapped by the battles of his era's changing times.