Arc of Justice by Kevin Boyle
A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age

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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.


About Kevin Boyle

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Kevin Boyle, a professor of history at Ohio State University, is the author of The UAW and the Heyday of American Liberalism, 1945-1968. A former associate professor at the University of Massachusetts, he is also the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Council of Learned Societies. He lives in Bexley, Ohio.
Published April 1, 2007 by Henry Holt and Co.. 415 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Law & Philosophy, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Told with exemplary care and intelligence, this narrative chronicles inflammatory times in black and white America and pays tribute to those heroes who struggled to get Old Jim Crow where he lived.

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The New York Times

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Kevin Boyle has written an account of the most famous civil rights trial you never heard of.

Sep 12 2004 | Read Full Review of Arc of Justice: A Saga of Rac...

Entertainment Weekly

Arc of Justice explores an explosive 1925 incident in which Ossian Sweet -- an ambitious black physician who moved to a white, KKK-infested Detroit neighborhood -- rallied 10 friends and relatives to combat an angry, stone-throwing mob, resulting in the shooting death of a white man.

Sep 10 2004 | Read Full Review of Arc of Justice: A Saga of Rac...

Bookmarks Magazine

In 1925, the accomplished black physician, Ossian Sweet, moved with his family into an all-white Detroit neighborhood.

Oct 08 2007 | Read Full Review of Arc of Justice: A Saga of Rac...


Because of the primal fears that lay buried in American’s psychological subtext, the ones the author so brilliantly revealed on page 65 as “fears of moral decay, economic impotence, and sexual inadequacy,” American society has tried to always “fence the black man in”, and as a result, has built a...

Jun 02 2009 | Read Full Review of Arc of Justice: A Saga of Rac...

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