Noted historian and writer Kevin Boyle visited the University of Michigan-Dearborn late last week to discuss his book “Arc of Justice.” The book is about an African-American born in a racially divided town in Florida who worked his way up to become a doctor.
The doctor’s name was Ossian Sweet, and he was raised in the racially divided south. His parents were members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and in the city he was raised in, Bartow, Florida, the only school for African-Americans went up to eighth grade. He wanted more schooling, so his parents sent him to Dayton, Ohio and an AME school. Wilberforce University was the school just outside of Dayton, and he earned his Bachelor’s of Science at the age of 25. He then went to Howard University in Washington D.C., where he earned his doctorate degree.
After he earned his degree, he went to live in Detroit, Michigan, the fastest growing city in the early 1920s. Boyle explained he eventually would go on to meet his future wife, Gladys Mitchell, and they moved into a house on the east side of Detroit. At the time he moved in, the city was growing and so was the racial divide. A mob would form outside of his house a couple days after he moved in, and rocks were being thrown at his windows.
The eleven people inside the home, including family and friends of Ossian and Gladys, opened fire on the crowd from within the house, wounding one man and killing another. The eleven African-Americans were put on trial for first degree murder. They were defended by Clarence Darrow, and eventually the case was dismissed. It was a huge win for African-Americans at the time.
That’s where the story stopped for Boyle, as he jokingly admitted that “he needs to eventually pay college tuition for his two girls,” as the room laughed. Arc of Justice is for sale on Amazon and the at the Barnes and Noble bookstore inside the University Center.
To read the original article, go to The Michigan Journal.