Arc of Justice

Arc of Justice

by

Kevin Boyle

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Ossian Sweet Character Analysis

Ossian Sweet is a Black doctor with a thriving practice in Detroit. He’s married to Gladys, with whom he has a daughter Iva; and he has two younger brothers, Otis and Henry. Disqualified for service in World War I due to poor eyesight, Ossian instead completes his medical degree at prestigious Howard University, then moves to Detroit to open a medical practice in 1921. Ossian considers himself a member of the talented tenth promoted by W. E. B. Du Bois and thus an exemplar of Black excellence. Accordingly, his highest goals in life are to achieve wealth and status. Buying a nice house in an all-white neighborhood represents the pinnacle of Ossian’s American Dream. Although he takes responsibility for representing his race, Ossian faces the move and the subsequent threats of white mob violence with a fear inculcated during his childhood when he witnessed the lynching of Fred Rochelle in his Florida hometown. Nevertheless, Ossian resolutely refuses to voice his fears, and, with the encouragement of Edward Carter, instead gathers an arsenal of weapons and a group of friends to help him defend the house with violence if necessary. This decision comes with immense personal costs, when Ossian finds himself, Gladys, and his friends standing trial for the murder of Leon Breiner. Although the trial brings him celebrity—he briefly becomes a valuable spokesperson for the NAACP—the consequences of his stand are terrible. Gladys and Iva both die of tuberculosis in the three years following the conclusion of the second trial. Ossian’s refusal to back down seems to be associated with an arrogance and rigidity of character that he increasingly demonstrates in the aftermath of the trials. His attempts at a political career fail, and he dies by suicide at 65. Ultimately, Ossian represents the promise of the American Dream, the difficulty of succeeding as a Black American, and the tremendous personal and social tolls of racism and segregation.

Ossian Sweet Quotes in Arc of Justice

The Arc of Justice quotes below are all either spoken by Ossian Sweet or refer to Ossian Sweet. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
).
Prologue Quotes

In the early 1920s, sophisticates scrambled to grab a share of the black life that southern migration was bringing into the cities. White producers mounted all-black musicals. White couples fumbled with the Charleston. And white patrons poured into Chicago’s South Side jazz joints and Harlem’s nightclubs. If they were lucky, they squeezed into the Vendome, where Louis Armstrong held the floor, or Edmund’s Cellar, where Ethel Waters sang the blues. The frenzy was shot through with condescension. White slummers thought black life exciting because it was “primitive” and vital. Visiting the ghetto’s haunts became the era’s way to snub mainstream society, to be in the avant-garde.

Related Characters: Ossian Sweet
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 1 Quotes

No matter how many advantages families along Garland Avenue enjoyed, though, it was always a struggle to hold on. Housing prices had spiraled upward so fearfully the only way a lot of folks could buy a flat or a house was to take on a crippling burden of debt. The massive weight of double mortgages or usurious land contracts threatened to crack family budgets. Men feared the unexpected assault on incomes that at their best barely covered monthly payments […] And now they faced this terrible turn of events: Negroes were moving onto the street, breaking into white man’s territory. News of their arrival meant so many things. A man felt his pride knotted and twisted. Parents feared for the safety of their daughters […] And everyone knew that when the color line was breached, housing values would collapse, spinning downward until Garland Avenue was swallowed into the ghetto and everything was lost.

Related Characters: Ossian Sweet, Gladys Sweet
Related Symbols: Houses
Page Number: 16-17
Explanation and Analysis:

It took him twelve more years to fulfill his parents’ instructions, a dozen long, hard years of schooling to master the material that would make him an educated man and earn the pride that was expected of the race’s best men, all the while working as a serving boy for white people […] Ossian never excelled, but he got an education, as fine an education as almost any man in America, colored or white, could claim. By age twenty-five, he had earned his bachelor of science degree […] and his medical degree from Washington, D.C.’s Howard University, the jewel in the crown of Negro colleges.

Related Characters: Ossian Sweet, W. E. B. Du Bois
Page Number: 20-21
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

So the revolution had come. Eight years earlier, the DeVaughn brothers had been pieces of property. Now they were men who demanded respect: missionaries of the Word, spreading the gospel to their fellow freedmen; aspiring farmers, working to earn a share of the American dream. They were still poor, still landless, still struggling to be equal to whites in fact as well as in name. But they had come so very far, there was every reason to be hopeful […] What must have run through Gilla’s mind as she cradled her granddaughter in her leathery arms? This child wouldn’t be like her babies, who had been born into a world now dead and gone. This child would have a future all her own.

Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

He’d recount it with frightening specificity: the smell of kerosene, Rochelle’s screams as he was engulfed in flames, the crowd’s picking off pieces of charred flesh to take home as souvenirs. Maybe, just maybe, he did see it all. The bridge was a short walk from his home. He could have been outside—coming back from his father’s fields—when the mob drove Rochelle through East Bartow. But he was only five years old in the summer of 1901. And it seems unlikely that Dora would have let him outside anytime that day. More likely, the horrific events imprinted themselves so deeply on Ossian’s mind that he convinced himself that he had been there. Either way, the effect was the same. The image of the conflagration—the heart-pounding fear of it—had been seared into his memory.

Related Characters: Ossian Sweet, Fred Rochelle, Dora DeVaughn
Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

Neighborhoods and businesses weren’t the only places where Negroes were increasingly unwelcome: at Scarborough’s beloved Oberlin, there was talk of black and white students taking their Bible studies in separate classes. None of this segregation had the sanction of law—state civil rights statutes remained on the books—and it wasn’t consistently applied: it was a patchwork of practices differing from place to place and even street to street. But for colored people, the trend was frighteningly familiar.

Page Number: 78-9
Explanation and Analysis:

A life in medicine would give Ossian the status he dreamed of—and the money he craved: a doctor could easily take home fifteen hundred dollars a year, an almost unimaginable amount to a young man whose father probably earned a fifth of that figure. If Ossian should rise in the profession, as he intended to do, his income could go even higher […] But it wasn’t the money alone that mattered. A high income would give him the outward signs of success: the dapper clothes he had never had a chance to wear, the fashionable home so different from the farmhouse his father had built. But to be called doctor—Doctor Ossian H. Sweet—that would be the greatest mark of respect he could imagine.

Related Characters: Ossian Sweet
Related Symbols: Houses
Page Number: 85-86
Explanation and Analysis:

Violence finally ended on the fourth day […President] Wilson ordered two thousand federal troops into the capital to secure the streets. And a furious rainstorm drove both whites and blacks indoors. Negro spokesmen insisted, however, that neither federal action nor a fortuitous turn in the weather had quelled the attack. James Weldon Johnson […] arrived in the city just as the soldiers were taking up positions. “The Negroes themselves saved Washington by their determination not to run, but to fight,” he concluded after two days of consultation and investigation, “fight in defense of their lives and their homes. If the white mob had gone on unchecked—and it was only the determined effort of black men that checked it—Washington should have been another and worse East St. Louis.”

Related Characters: James Weldon Johnson (speaker), Ossian Sweet
Related Symbols: Houses
Page Number: 96-97
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

But it was mounting discrimination in the real estate market that increasingly sealed Negroes into Black Bottom. Since the early 1910s, white real estate agents and landlords in Chicago and New York had refused to so much as show Negroes homes in white neighborhoods, saying that the presence of colored people depressed property values. In the course of the Great War, these practices spread to Detroit. Not every real estate agent or landlord signed on: if colored folks were willing to pay a premium for a piece of property in a white part of town, some real estate men were happy to oblige them. But to defy the new racial conventions took more courage—or more avarice—than many real estate agents and landlords had. So discriminatory practices passed from office to office, property to property, and racial hatred gradually turned into common business practice, the way things were done.

Related Characters: Ossian Sweet
Related Symbols: Houses
Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:

While Du Bois pledged that Negroes would return from Europe ready to fight for equal rights, socialists A. Phillip Randolph and Chandler Owen preached the power of armed resistance. “We are…urging Negroes and other oppressed groups confronted with lynching and mob violence to act upon the recognized and accepted law of self-defense,” the pair wrote during the bloody summer of 1919. “Always regard your own life as more important than the life of the person about to take yours, and if a choice has to be made between the sacrifice of your life and the loss of the lyncher’s life, chose to preserve your own and to destroy that of the lynching mob.”

Related Characters: W. E. B. Du Bois, Ossian Sweet
Page Number: 118
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

He could demand a new status. Rather than driving his old Model T […] he bought a brand-new Buick touring car, an automobile to match the fine machines of his senior colleagues parked outside Dunbar Memorial. There wasn’t any question that, after his time away, he’d rebuild his practice in Black Bottom. But instead of moving back to Palace Drugs, he rented a space a few blocks north of the pharmacy. It was just a storefront, right next door to a funeral home, hardly a reassuring sight for sick folk making their way to his waiting room, but for the first time in his career, Ossian had an office of his own, an indulgence perhaps, but also a sure sign of upward mobility.

Related Characters: Ossian Sweet, Edward Carter
Page Number: 135-136
Explanation and Analysis:

Then, a woman who lived across the street from Bristol’s house mounted her porch and launched into a harangue. “If you call yourselves men and are afraid to get those niggers out,” she screamed, “we women will move them, you cowards!” That was it. Almost instantaneously the mob began stoning the house. Someone approached the police to ask if they would step aside for five minutes; it wouldn’t take any longer to drive the coloreds away. When the inspector refused to move his men, the mob stoned them too.

Related Symbols: Houses
Page Number: 154
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

The Klan was in the ascendancy; the Negroes’ white allies on the bench had deserted them; the mayor they had helped to elect had endorsed injustice and declared the pursuit of civil rights a threat to peace and liberal democracy. No longer was this simply a question of whether the Sweets were justified in firing into the mob on Garland Avenue. Now the Talented Tenth was locked in combat against segregation itself, battling to preserve some shred of the promise that brought almost a million people out of the South in the previous ten years, to show that the North was different, to prove that there were places in America where Jim Crow would not be allowed to rule. This had become a fight over fundamentals.

Related Characters: Ossian Sweet, Gladys Sweet, John Smith
Page Number: 196
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

Ossian was quoted as saying in late September, “I am willing to stay indefinitely in the cell and be punished. I feel sure by the demonstration made by my people that they have confidence in me as a law-abiding citizen. I denounce the theory of Ku Kluxism and uphold the theory of manhood with a wife and tiny baby to protect.” Tough as nails on the night of the shooting, Gladys became in White’s hands a black Madonna, her arms aching for the child she could not hold. “Though I suffer and am torn loose from my fourteen-month-old baby,” she said, “I feel it is my duty to the womanhood of the race. If I am freed I shall return and live at my home on Garland Avenue.”

Related Characters: Ossian Sweet (speaker), Gladys Sweet (speaker), Iva Sweet, Walter White, Leon Breiner
Page Number: 220
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

When the proceedings resumed at half past nine on Thursday, November 5, the courtroom had been transformed into a tableau of American justice. On a simple bench along one wall sat the eleven defendants, Ossian and Gladys side by side on the far end, exchanging occasional whispers but otherwise watching events with grim-faced concentration. Against the opposite wall sat twelve of their peers—in name if not in fact—arranged in two neat rows of chairs set behind a low railing. Between the two groups in the well of the courtroom stood the representative of the people, the accuser facing the accused as the finest of Anglo-Saxon traditions required, a handsome young white man come to say why eleven Negroes should spend the rest of their lives in prison paying for their crimes.

Page Number: 267
Explanation and Analysis:

Ossian didn’t have to testify. No one could have objected to his refusing, so great was the responsibility: if he said the wrong word, put the wrong inflection in his voice, sat in a way that struck the jurors as too casual or too confident, grew rattled under cross-examination, succumbed to a single flash of anger, whatever sympathy Darrow and Hays had won for the defendants could be lost, the entire defense destroyed. But Ossian didn’t refuse. Undoubtedly he agreed out of pride—the intoxicating sense that in the past few weeks he had become the representative of his race and the champion of its rights—and, as always, out of obligation. He would do what his lawyers wanted him to do, what his wife and brothers and friends needed him to do, what his colleagues surely expected him to do. He had no choice, really, but to take the stand.

Page Number: 288
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

Ossian’s sense of himself soared with all the acclaim. When the Harlem rally was finished, Walter White dispatched the Sweets on a six-day tour of NAACP branches. The association wanted the couple simply to appear at each venue, say a few words of thanks, and stand by quietly while the association’s director of branches […] appealed for contributions. But whenever Ossian saw the people waiting for him […] he began to hold forth like the luminary everyone said he was […] Although he claimed to be no orator, Ossian “thundered” at his audiences, according to the Chicago Defender, trying to impress them with a mix of exaggeration, self-righteousness, and more than a touch of arrogance.

Related Characters: Ossian Sweet, Gladys Sweet, Walter White
Page Number: 306
Explanation and Analysis:
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Ossian Sweet Character Timeline in Arc of Justice

The timeline below shows where the character Ossian Sweet appears in Arc of Justice. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Where Death Waits
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Inside the house, Dr. Ossian Sweet sits at a card table in the dining room. Only in his late 20s,... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Ossian arrived in Detroit in 1921, built a medical practice in the Black Bottom neighborhood, and... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
The house should have been one of Ossian’s greatest accomplishments. Gladys wanted a house with a yard for their daughter, Iva, to play... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
Still, the racial violence Ossian has witnessed, both in Florida and Detroit, scares him. He knows that profession and wealth... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
Ossian heard Dr. Alexander Turner’s story from Alexander himself earlier in the summer. Nevertheless, friends and... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
...must even limit trips to the grocery store. The police department offers temporary security. But Ossian knows that he must defend his house, violently if necessary. He calls on his brothers... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Ossian and Gladys Sweet move into the house midmorning on the 8th assisted by their chauffeur... (full context)
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
Ossian distributes weapons among the seven men in the house: Otis, Henry, Davis, Latting, Mack, Murray,... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
The following morning, Joe Mack drives Ossian and Gladys to the furniture store. In the afternoon, Gladys visits her family and Iva,... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
When Ossian drives from the decaying streets of Black Bottom to Garland Avenue that evening, to his... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
...kitchen, Henry helps Gladys prepare dinner. Henry possesses more charm than his aloof, formal brother Ossian. Nevertheless, he adores his older brother and followed his footsteps to college. Gladys shares her... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
...in the streets. The men in the house grab weapons and take up defensive positions. Ossian’s hands shake so badly he can barely load his pistol. He ducks into the bedroom... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
...out of hand. He pushes his way through the roiling crowd to the porch. When Ossian opens the door, Schuknecht maintains that he hasn’t seen any threat that would justify shooting.... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
...flood in, turning on the lights and rounding up the defenders. As the police handcuff Ossian to Davis, Ossian flashes back to a childhood memory of mob violence. Joe Mack knows... (full context)
Chapter 2: Ain’t No Slavery No More
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
In the police van, Ossian feels relief—the mob can no longer reach him. But he also feels fear. He and... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
Ossian’s great-grandfather, Edmond DeVaughn, was born into slavery and taken by his owner, Alexander Cromartie, from... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...than overturning white supremacy. In 1872, the Black delegates staged a political coup to nominate Ossian Hart for governor. Black voters helped propel Hart to victory. Although he was a former... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
Just 14 months later, however, Ossian Hart died suddenly. The Republican Party lost control, while white economic opportunists reclaimed power. Then,... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...first son, who died in childhood, Oscar. To her second child, Dora gave the name “Ossian.” (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
In 1898, when Ossian was three, Henry Sweet, Sr. purchased and moved his family to a small plot of... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
The violence of the Jim Crow South provided the constant backdrop of Ossian’s childhood years. Social and economic change had stripped many white people of their accustomed power... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
...allowed the victim’s husband to light the match. Although other men suffered horrific lynchings during Ossian’s childhood, Rochelle’s death made the strongest impression on Ossian. Although he was only five at... (full context)
Chapter 3: Migration
The American Dream Theme Icon
Tracing the story of Ossian Sweet’s past, the narrative follows him to Xenia, Ohio, where he arrives by train in... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
...year—consider it a backwater. But it offers a four-year preparatory curriculum for students who, like Ossian, didn’t attend high school. The AME owns and operates the school, and a scholarship promises... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
...was controlled by white people until the AME purchased it in 1863. By the time Ossian arrives, segregation and chronic underfunding mean that the buildings are slowly crumbling, the lab equipment... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Ossian thus receives a rigorous education in the preparatory program, with classes in literature, history, philosophy,... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
Race riots in the North punctuate Ossian’s years at Wilberforce. They break out in Springfield, Ohio (close to Wilberforce) in March 1904... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
It this atmosphere of racial tensions and expectations, Ossian studies. Perched precariously between the world of the college students and the second-class industrial arts... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
But for Ossian, college mostly means financial struggle. This strengthens his resolve to become a doctor and “amass... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Ossian arrives in Washington D.C. in this atmosphere of heightened racial tensions. Howard University is everything... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
But even an undistinguished Howard medical student has the kind of status and gravitas that Ossian craves. He begins to dress sharply and adopts a doctor’s professional detachment. Sometimes, he indulges... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
While Ossian studies medicine at Howard, the war exacerbates political and racial tensions. Fear about the influence... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Ossian completes his medical education caring for patients at the Freedman’s Hospital, many of whom suffer... (full context)
Chapter 4: Uplift Me, Pride
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
Ossian Sweet arrives in Detroit a newly minted doctor in the late summer of 1925, with... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Ossian rents a room in Black Bottom, the neighborhood where most of Detroit’s Black population lives.... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Ossian establishes his medical practice in Black Bottom at the back of the centrally-located Palace Drug... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Ossian also begins to network in the Black Bottom community, joining fraternal organizations like the Elks... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Ossian and Carter both work at Dunbar Memorial, a tiny, threadbare hospital founded by the city’s... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
...Black nationalist ideas draw some Black Bottom residents, most of the Black talented tenth, including Ossian and his medical colleagues, remain staunch integrationists. Their efforts to improve the lot of the... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...organization poaches the Detroit NAACP branch’s charismatic leader, the local branch disintegrates. By the time Ossian arrives, despite solidifying power in the white supremacist movement, local civil rights campaigns have become... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Against this backdrop of increasing violence, Ossian meets Gladys at a dance in 1922. Gladys was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her single... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Following his marriage, Ossian plans to spend a year in Europe studying the latest medical advances. Not only will... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
The Sweets stop in Vienna first, and Ossian attends lectures by Baron von Eiselberg, the father of neurosurgery. Studying at the Eiselberg Institute... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
But Jim Crow follows the Sweets abroad, too. Although Ossian makes a sizeable donation to the American Hospital in Paris, it refuses to allow Gladys... (full context)
Chapter 5: White Houses
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
...saved money for the down payment on a house. Newly elevated by his European studies, Ossian spent much of the year rebuilding his practice. His brother Otis moved to Detroit and... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
While Ossian and Gladys put away money, enormous shifts occur in the politics of Detroit race relations.... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...neighborhood—out of the question. But moving into a white neighborhood presents steep challenges. Most of Ossian’s colleagues who live outside of Black Bottom established themselves years before, when the color lines... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
But one day, Lucius Riley, husband of Ossian’s first Detroit patient, lets the doctor know about a fine, recently built house about to... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
Two weeks later, the Tireman Avenue Improvement Association attacks Vollington Bristol, an old friend of Ossian’s. Bristol owns a house in a white neighborhood, which he rents to white tenants. But,... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
The violence scares Gladys and Ossian. But Ossian feels that backing down will mean admitting his failure to live up to... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
...to back down and accept their place in society for the sake of peace. While Ossian, Turner, and other members of Detroit’s talented tenth gather to discuss the attacks, Marie Smith... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
As the move draws closer, Ossian’s determination to defend himself grows. He likes the way his resolve impresses his peers. He... (full context)
Chapter 6: The Letter of Your Law
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Ossian and the other men arrive at the police station as confirmation arrives that, while doctors... (full context)
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Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
At 10:45 p.m., two hours after the shooting, Lieutenant Hayes summons Ossian for the first interview with Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Ted Kennedy. Kennedy’s boss, Robert Toms,... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
...strikes a more defiant tone than the men, showing pride in the stand she and Ossian took. She knew she was moving into a white neighborhood and there might be trouble,... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...asks Cecil Rowlette, the Black attorney who represented Fleta Mathies and Alexander Turner, to join Ossian’s defense. A neighbor, who happens to be on the board of the Detroit NAACP chapter,... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
These accounts help to explain why County Prosecutor Robert Toms feels it necessary to bring Ossian, Gladys, and their companions to trial. He is a fair and judicious man who has... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
While Kennedy interviews Garland Avenue neighbors, Ossian, Gladys, and the others sweat in jail. William Davis, a federal narcotics officer—another member of... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
...NAACP will cover all costs associated with their defense and has planned a massive fundraiser. Ossian provides the legal team with his official statement, the same shaky one he gave to... (full context)
Chapter 7: Freedmen, Sons of God, Americans
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
...carefully spun by the NAACP and connected to their ongoing Supreme Court challenge. Stories emphasize Ossian’s injured pride and the suffering of the young couple, unjustly separated from their daughter and... (full context)
Chapter 8: The Prodigal Son
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
...unusually bold calls for justice. Papers in Chicago, Detroit, New York, and Washington, D.C. celebrate Ossian as a defender of himself and his house as well as a champion of Black... (full context)
Chapter 9: Prejudice
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Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
In his opening argument, Hays focuses on Ossian, presenting his rise from poverty through years of education and hard work as a sterling... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
Ossian himself takes the stand on the afternoon of November 18. It’s a tremendous responsibility: the... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Then Ossian’s testimony takes the jury and the crowded courtroom into the house on Garland Avenue the... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
In the final four days of the trial, Ossian fends off Toms’ aggressive cross-examination. Hays fails to prevent Henry’s admission on the night of... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
...and sophistication. He attacks the long, uniquely American history of racism and slavery and transforms Ossian into a hero of racial justice. He alleges that white supremacy is nothing more than... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...the defendants but have split seven to five on the question of whether to convict Ossian, Henry, and Leonard Morse. Murphy orders them to resume deliberations the following morning as Gladys—the... (full context)
Chapter 10: Judgement Day
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
...men, like Joe Mack and Norris Murray, have trouble securing funds, but the higher-profile ones—including Ossian—soon walk free. The Sweets don’t return to Garland Avenue; the Waterworks Association has resumed meeting... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
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Ossian and Gladys travel to New York City as the special guests and headlining celebrities of... (full context)
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Ossian and Gladys wait, too; Robert Toms has another big case to try, and the court’s... (full context)
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...lady (who happens to live in the neighborhood) also corroborate reports of the crowd. Even Ossian returns to the stand, although this time his less-carefully guarded testimony almost allows Toms to... (full context)
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Closing arguments begin with a bitter screed from Assistant Prosecutor Lester Moll, who dismisses Ossian as “quasi-intelligent” and Rochelle and Butler as “so-called artists.” He excoriates Chawke and Darrow for... (full context)
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...fight this instinct as they consider the story of Henry, a “good [college] boy” and Ossian, a man who started with nothing and made himself successful in a classic iteration of... (full context)
Epilogue: Requiescam
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For Ossian and Gladys, tragedy ruins the news of Henry’s acquittal and the subsequent dropping of charges... (full context)
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Ossian’s personal life spirals downwards after Gladys’ death; two subsequent marriages end in divorce, and he... (full context)