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

by

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

 

Awards

Winner of the 2004 National Book Award for Nonfiction

Review-A-Day

"[A] clear, precise snapshot of an incident that belongs in our collective memory....Boyle has a keen eye for detail and a laudable aversion to idealizing his subjects. Although his affection for Sweet is clear, he's also honest — sometimes brutally so — about Sweet's weaknesses....For a contemporary America still struggling with the painful legacy of its racist past, it's a tale worth listening to." Priya Jain, Salon.com (read the entire Salon.com review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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.

Review:

"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. (Sept. 7)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"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. The way history should be written." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"Arc of Justice is an impressive work. Deftly weaving together biography, courtroom drama and social history, Mr. Boyle has produced a meticulously researched and engrossing book." The New York Times

Synopsis:

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.

Synopsis:

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.

Kevin Boyle, an associate professor of history at Ohio State University, is the author of The UAW and the Heyday of American Liberalism, 1945-1968, the coauthor with Victoria Getis of Muddy Boots and Ragged Aprons: Images of Working-Class Detroit, 1900-1930, and the editor of Organized Labor and American Politics: The Labor-Liberal Alliance, 1894-1994. A former associate professor at the University of Massachusetts, he is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Council of Learned Societies. A native of Detroit, Michigan, he now lives with his wife and their two daughters in Bexley, Ohio.

Winner of the National Book Award
Pulitzer Prize Finalist

A New York Times Notable Book of 2004

A Chicago Tribune Best Book of 2004

Winner of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Tolerance Book Award
 
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 Detroita smoky swirl of speakeasies and sprawling factories where progress and Henry Ford had pumped competition to fever pitch.
 
Beginning with the hot summer night in 1925 when Sweet's outraged white neighbors circled his house to drive his family out, Arc of Justice is grand nonfiction storytellingan epic canvas of dreams deferred and justice compromised, empowered by a triumphant spirit. 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 Tenthrallied blacks to raise their voices and to begin the march toward equality, dignity, and self-respect.
 
Boyle captures the streets of Detroit as they 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 eventsfollowing a white neighbor's shootingthat 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 Darrowwhose theatrics and fiery passion made him a ferocious defender of the oppressedBoyle's narrative becomes courtroom drama at its 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 that drew the attention of all Americans to the plight of Doctor Sweet and his wife.
Winner of the National Book Award
Pulitzer Prize Finalist

A New York Times Notable Book of 2004

A Chicago Tribune Best Book of 2004

"Masterful . . . An important, scholarly work . . . The writing is graceful [and] it endows the story with the majesty and consequence of an epic . . . This is the kind of book that causes students to major in history."Paul Butler, The Boston Globe

"Rarely do historians make the past jump off the page, much less show contemporary relevance compellingly. Boyle is a welcome exception when it comes to the history of racial enmity in 20th-century America . . . [This is] a book that ought to become a standard text and might just become a classic of historical literature . . . [Boyle] is masterful at placing every nuance of the Sweet case within a larger context."Steve Weinberg, Houston Chronicle

"Here is a model of literary nonfiction, a fine piece of scholarship that challenges our preconceived ideas about civil rights, speaks to many of our current predicaments, and holds the reader like a fast-paced detective novel . . . Stories that matter should be told as though they mattered. This Boyle has done with uncommon success."Timothy B. Tyson, The Washington Post

"An impressive work. Deftly weaving together biography, courtroom drama, and social history, Mr. Boyle has produced a meticulously researched and engrossing book . . . Mr. Boyle spins a good tale that holds the reader's attention till the very last line."Patricia Cohen, The New York Times

"Boyle's Arc of Justice is by far the most cogent and thorough account yet of the trial [of Ossian Sweet] and its aftermath."Robert F. Worth, The New York Times Book Review

"Boyle tells [this story] with thoroughness [and] flair . . . Arc of Justice does justice both to its complex protagonists and the issues they embraced. Masterfully weaving crime reporting and social history, Boyle has produced a fine and moving work."Steve Oney, Los Angeles Times

"[A] deep and broad [study of] the first large-scale encounters of blacks and whites in the North."Elinor Langer, The Oregonian

"Rarely do historians make the past jump off the page, much less show contemporary relevance compellingly. Kevin Boyle is a welcome exception when it comes to the history of racial enmity in 20th-century America . . . Boyle has written a book that ought to become a standard text and might just become a classic of historical literature . . . [Boyle] is masterful at placing every nuance of the Sweet case within a larger context."Steve Weinberg, Houston Chronicle

"With his masterful new book . . . Kevin Boyle joins the ranks of distinguished narrators of American life. In luminous and unforgettable language, Boyle recounts the tale of Ossia

About the Author

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.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780805071450
Subtitle:
A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age
Author:
Boyle, Kevin
Publisher:
Holt Paperbacks
Location:
New York
Subject:
United states
Subject:
African American Studies
Subject:
Trials
Subject:
United States - 20th Century/20s
Subject:
African Americans
Subject:
Detroit
Subject:
Ethnic Studies - African American Studies - Histor
Subject:
General History
Subject:
United States - State & Local - Midwest
Subject:
Ethnic Studies - African American Studies
Subject:
United States - 20th Century
Subject:
Political Freedom
Subject:
Security/Civil Rights
Subject:
Political Freedom & Security - Civil Rights
Subject:
Civil Rights
Copyright:
Edition Number:
1st ed.
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Series Volume:
1493
Publication Date:
20050501
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
8 pg bandw insert
Pages:
448
Dimensions:
9.96 x 5.92 x 1.555 in
Age Level:
a period that witnessed the rebirth of the Ku Klux

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » African American Studies » Civil Rights Movement
History and Social Science » World History » General

Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$12.95 In Stock
Product details 448 pages Henry Holt & Company - English 9780805071450 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "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. (Sept. 7)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "[A] clear, precise snapshot of an incident that belongs in our collective memory....Boyle has a keen eye for detail and a laudable aversion to idealizing his subjects. Although his affection for Sweet is clear, he's also honest — sometimes brutally so — about Sweet's weaknesses....For a contemporary America still struggling with the painful legacy of its racist past, it's a tale worth listening to." (read the entire Salon.com review)
"Review" by , "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. The way history should be written."
"Review" by , "Arc of Justice is an impressive work. Deftly weaving together biography, courtroom drama and social history, Mr. Boyle has produced a meticulously researched and engrossing book."
"Synopsis" by ,
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.

"Synopsis" by ,
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.

Kevin Boyle, an associate professor of history at Ohio State University, is the author of The UAW and the Heyday of American Liberalism, 1945-1968, the coauthor with Victoria Getis of Muddy Boots and Ragged Aprons: Images of Working-Class Detroit, 1900-1930, and the editor of Organized Labor and American Politics: The Labor-Liberal Alliance, 1894-1994. A former associate professor at the University of Massachusetts, he is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Council of Learned Societies. A native of Detroit, Michigan, he now lives with his wife and their two daughters in Bexley, Ohio.

Winner of the National Book Award
Pulitzer Prize Finalist

A New York Times Notable Book of 2004

A Chicago Tribune Best Book of 2004

Winner of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Tolerance Book Award
 
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 Detroita smoky swirl of speakeasies and sprawling factories where progress and Henry Ford had pumped competition to fever pitch.
 
Beginning with the hot summer night in 1925 when Sweet's outraged white neighbors circled his house to drive his family out, Arc of Justice is grand nonfiction storytellingan epic canvas of dreams deferred and justice compromised, empowered by a triumphant spirit. 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 Tenthrallied blacks to raise their voices and to begin the march toward equality, dignity, and self-respect.
 
Boyle captures the streets of Detroit as they 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 eventsfollowing a white neighbor's shootingthat 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 Darrowwhose theatrics and fiery passion made him a ferocious defender of the oppressedBoyle's narrative becomes courtroom drama at its 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 that drew the attention of all Americans to the plight of Doctor Sweet and his wife.
Winner of the National Book Award
Pulitzer Prize Finalist

A New York Times Notable Book of 2004

A Chicago Tribune Best Book of 2004

"Masterful . . . An important, scholarly work . . . The writing is graceful [and] it endows the story with the majesty and consequence of an epic . . . This is the kind of book that causes students to major in history."Paul Butler, The Boston Globe

"Rarely do historians make the past jump off the page, much less show contemporary relevance compellingly. Boyle is a welcome exception when it comes to the history of racial enmity in 20th-century America . . . [This is] a book that ought to become a standard text and might just become a classic of historical literature . . . [Boyle] is masterful at placing every nuance of the Sweet case within a larger context."Steve Weinberg, Houston Chronicle

"Here is a model of literary nonfiction, a fine piece of scholarship that challenges our preconceived ideas about civil rights, speaks to many of our current predicaments, and holds the reader like a fast-paced detective novel . . . Stories that matter should be told as though they mattered. This Boyle has done with uncommon success."Timothy B. Tyson, The Washington Post

"An impressive work. Deftly weaving together biography, courtroom drama, and social history, Mr. Boyle has produced a meticulously researched and engrossing book . . . Mr. Boyle spins a good tale that holds the reader's attention till the very last line."Patricia Cohen, The New York Times

"Boyle's Arc of Justice is by far the most cogent and thorough account yet of the trial [of Ossian Sweet] and its aftermath."Robert F. Worth, The New York Times Book Review

"Boyle tells [this story] with thoroughness [and] flair . . . Arc of Justice does justice both to its complex protagonists and the issues they embraced. Masterfully weaving crime reporting and social history, Boyle has produced a fine and moving work."Steve Oney, Los Angeles Times

"[A] deep and broad [study of] the first large-scale encounters of blacks and whites in the North."Elinor Langer, The Oregonian

"Rarely do historians make the past jump off the page, much less show contemporary relevance compellingly. Kevin Boyle is a welcome exception when it comes to the history of racial enmity in 20th-century America . . . Boyle has written a book that ought to become a standard text and might just become a classic of historical literature . . . [Boyle] is masterful at placing every nuance of the Sweet case within a larger context."Steve Weinberg, Houston Chronicle

"With his masterful new book . . . Kevin Boyle joins the ranks of distinguished narrators of American life. In luminous and unforgettable language, Boyle recounts the tale of Ossia

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