Arc Of Justice Thesis

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Arc of Justice In the book, Arc of Justice, the stage is set in the growing city of Detroit in 1925. The racial tension during this time was extremely high, with the Jim Crow laws and segregation of whites and blacks. The setting is perfect for Ossian Sweet to move into an all-white neighborhood, cause a disruption, and begin a domino-effect of events causing him to have an important part in our nation’s history.

The book begins with Ossian and Gladys Sweet, an African-American couple, just buying their first house.

This was a common event for many people during this time period, but what was so uncommon about the Sweets’ home was the neighborhood their new house was in. The house on Garland Avenue was on an all-white street, in an all-white neighborhood. Ossian Sweet’s parents were practicing members of the African Methodist Epsicopal Church (a.

k. a AME). Ossian grew up with this faith, which encouraged members to go to school and get a higher education. Sweet’s parents followed that and encouraged their son to go on to college, which Ossian did.

He moved away from his family in Florida and went to Wilberforce, an all-black college in Ohio, to pursue a career as a doctor. Ossian and Gladys, after getting married, take a year-long trip to Paris. In Paris it is extremely obvious that there are no Jim Crow laws, like there were in the United States.

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The Sweets’ aren’t looked down upon because of their skin color by Parisians; they are treated like anybody else. “Simple courtesies that in the United States he would never have received: that’s what Ossian remembered from his springtime in Paris. (132) Returning to the US, to where they would go right back to being treated like inferiors, wasn’t easy for the Sweets’. Yet, Ossian was proud of his line of work and in Paris he had learned much more. He wanted to defy the Jim Crow laws and wanted to be treated like any other doctor, to live where other doctors live. Ossian and Gladys Sweet wouldn’t settle for a house in Black Bottom, which was the area in Detroit where many migrants from the South had no choice but to live. This was during the Harlem Renaissance; thousands of African-American families were looking for places to live.

Arc Of Justice Thesis

Landlords in Detroit knew this and they increased the prices on homes because they knew the desperate black families would be forced to pay such high prices. These homes were disgusting inside and families barely had enough room to move around. Therefore the Sweets’ decided that was no place for them and they were going to search outside the ghettos of Detroit until they found a nice house—suitable for a doctor—to live in. The small act of them buying the house on Garland caused anger to many of the white families living on that street.

During this era the simple presence of just one black family on that street could drive the property value of all the neighboring homes down. “And everyone knew that when the color line was breeched, housing values would collapse, spinning downward until Garland Avenue was swallowed into the ghetto and everything was lost. ” (17) The people living on this street weren’t exactly the “elite” of Detroit, so the fact that they were white was the only thing keeping them out of the inner city. During the 1920’s, black people lived in the inner city and white people lived on the outside of town.

These white families would do whatever it took to get the Sweets to leave, in order to save their neighborhood. The police of Detroit were aware that a black family was moving into a house in an all-white neighborhood, and they knew that the white-families weren’t going to be welcoming of these newcomers. The first two nights the Sweets lived on Garland Ave, there were police officers stationed outside their house to protect them from potential mobs. The first night a mob formed, but they went home eventually.

The second night, however, did not end so well. A mob formed again, this time though they began to throw stones at the Sweets home and one smashed through a window. The men upstairs shot into the crowd in an attempt to save the house. These officers turned the other cheek on the white families who began to harass the Sweets, their friends, and their family. It’s obvious that the police officers assigned to defend these poor people didn’t do their job, since the Sweet’s felt so threatened they ended up shooting two people—one fatally.

This is, of course, the very event that made Ossian Sweet’s name go down in history. Ossian, his wife, and the other people in his house were arrested and taken to jail for murder, or instead for a clear act of self-defense. Henry Sweet, Ossian’s brother, ended up admitting to shooting during the police interrogation. Clarence Darrow heard about their case. Darrow was a very famous lawyer at the time; he had just been the defense attorney for the Scopes trial earlier that year and he agreed to take their case.

The head of the NAACP, James Weldon Johnson, also heard about the trial; he knew that this case would be huge in gaining civil rights for African-Americans, especially since Clarence Darrow was defending them. Johnson decided the NAACP would help to fund the Sweet trial and support them all the way. Darrow questioned dozens and dozens of potential jurors, making sure they were perfect candidates—the right job, the right religion, even the right gender. He would dismiss them if they didn’t meet his qualifications.

Since there were so many men on trial he had about 300 jurors at his disposal to search through and find the right people. Darrow needed the perfect jury in order to make sure these people weren’t charged with murder when they were only defending their house and themselves. Gladys had been released on bail after just a few days in jail, but the other nine men were on trial. After a long four weeks, with lots of fighting on between Darrow and Hays, the prosecution’s lawyer, the jury came to a decision. Five of the men, all of them but Ossian, Henry, and Leonard, would be acquitted of murder.

The jurors couldn’t come to a unanimous decision about the other three. The judge declared the first trial a mistrial. There was then a second trial to decide Henry Sweet’s fate. The jury declared Henry not guilty. Since the trial was success, the NAACP held a convention to celebrate. They had many things they hoped to challenge, in hopes of black people gaining civil rights, one of which was challenging the Jim Crow laws. “Prejudice was still a mighty force, but its decline had already begun, and in time it would be defeated. (337) The NAACP starting working on their Legal Defense Fund, which was made possible by the Ossian Sweet trials, and trying their best to ban Jim Crow laws. Unfortunately, Ossian Sweet committed suicide after his wife died and never saw the end result of the movement that he had helped to start. The Sweet trials helped to start the NAACP’s success in breaking down the Jim Crow laws and start the civil rights movement. Through the success of the trials and with the help of Clarence Darrow, the Sweets helped to start the desegregation of one of the racially tense countries in America.

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Arc Of Justice Thesis
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