A Trial Of Race Essay

1209 words - 5 pages

In his book, Arc of Justice, Kevin Boyle begins a story of a sensational murder trial in 1925 Detroit that divided the city and sparked the civil rights struggle among African Americans. The trial centers on Ossian Sweet, a black doctor living in the black ghetto of Detroit who sought peace for his family by moving into a white working-class neighborhood. This being a bold move on his part, as he obviously understood the conflict that he would have to confront with the white neighborhood for making such a move. A riot formed and the Sweets' household fought back with guns, killing one of the mob members in the process and thus beginning the series of events that led to attorney Clarence ...view middle of the document...

However, this huge expansion of blacks moving into their cities is what may have sparked the Northern whites to have a change of heart from the support they gave for black movements a few years back to a more resentful attitude (Boyle 106). Segregation became much more apparent in the North despite it not being enforced by law in the form of de jure segregation. Instead, it was apparent through de facto segregation that resulted from African Americans residing in different neighborhoods due to the lack of income and their desire to live near other black residents.
Segregation could be seen in many other areas as well. The job market was less willing to hire blacks for skilled work (Boyle 107). Blacks were forced to live in lesser quality homes. Many white hospitals were not willing to accept blacks because they would disrupt the cleanliness that they sought to care for patients in (Boyle 112). The separation between races grew more prevalent after World War I and created a lot of hatred in the Northern cities.
The intolerance that whites had for blacks moving into their neighborhood stemmed from the separation mentioned above. A black man moving into one's own neighborhood would be an attack on a man's pride, create fear for children's safety and that housing values would drop simply due to their presence (Boyle 17). Sweet became a victim of this intolerance when he moved into the white working class neighborhood.
The mob's decision to attack Ossian Sweet's household was clearly an act of racism. They made it their objective to scare the Sweets into moving out of the neighborhood by throwing rocks at their house. Sweet readied himself for the attack by recruiting his friends, family and other black people who were willing to support him and supplying them with guns. This is what led to the death of Leon Breiner. Sweet's decision to bring guns with him and open fire on an incoming mob assaulting his home may be looked at as an act of a savage bloodthirsty monster due to the color of his skin.
Because of this preconceived notion of African Americans, Darrow makes an effort to select a jury that lacks this prejudice. He does so by interrogating them individually and dismissing anybody that he knows will convict the Sweets of murder (Boyle 260). Darrow understands that this is a trial about race and that selecting a racist jury member will not do Sweet any good. For Darrow, selecting...

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