Arc of Justice

Arc of Justice

by

Kevin Boyle

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Walter White Character Analysis

Walter White is James Weldon Johnson’s right-hand man at the NAACP as well as an important figure in the civil rights movement and Harlem Renaissance. By the racial standards of the Jim Crow South where he grew up, White is Black, although his skin is so light that he can easily “pass” (appear to be a white person). He chooses not to after a frightening brush with racialized violence in his childhood. White’s light skin proves to be an asset after the NAACP recruits him and puts him to work investigating lynchings in the South. White is also a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance, since his connections (and fair skin) give him the opportunity to introduce important Black artists and writers to the New York publishing industry. And White’s own debut novel, The Fire in the Flint, receives wide acclaim on its publication in 1924. When the Sweet case comes to his attention, Johnson dispatches White to Detroit to organize the NAACP’s involvement and support. There, White quickly alienates the Black lawyers representing the Sweets and their friends, Julian Perry, Cecil Rowlette, and Charles Mahoney by his insistence on adding a white lawyer to the team. Although White’s flashy personal style and admitted distaste for darker-skinned Black people make him enemies in the civil rights movement, including W. E. B. Du Bois, his tireless work during the Sweet trials helps to win the defendants’ acquittal and establishes the financial groundwork for the NAACP’s legal defense fund. When he succeeds Johnson as executive secretary, he continues his mentor’s strategy of legal challenges, eventually shepherding the Brown v. Board of Education case—a landmark of the civil rights movement—to the Supreme Court shortly before his death in 1954.

Walter White Quotes in Arc of Justice

The Arc of Justice quotes below are all either spoken by Walter White or refer to Walter White. 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
).
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 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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Walter White Character Timeline in Arc of Justice

The timeline below shows where the character Walter White appears in Arc of Justice. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 7: Freedmen, Sons of God, Americans
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
...fall. Meanwhile, the Sweets’ case comes to his attention and he dispatches his protégé, Walter White, to the Motor City. (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
When Walter White isn’t occupied with his work as Johnson’s second-in-command at the NAACP, he rubs elbows with... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
The dynamic White arrives in Detroit about a week after the shootings, determined to shape up the case... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
White attends the preliminary hearing, where Assistant Prosecutor Lester Moll sidesteps the issue of forethought (for... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
White uses this blow to revisit the idea of adding a white defense lawyer, but Rowlette’s... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
While Walter White fumes over Rowlette’s impertinence, James Johnson starts fundraising. News of the Sweets’ arrest spreads through... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
In the week following White’s visit to Detroit, Julian Perry tells the local NAACP branch that he wants to resign... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
...case that has ramifications for the “inalienable rights under the Constitution” of all Black citizens. White tasks Perry with visiting the white lawyers on the NAACP’s list, but each one declines... (full context)
Chapter 8: The Prodigal Son
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
...for the difficulties faced by “[their] race.” In fact, neither man is Black, although Walter White, whom Darrow assumes to be white, is. Chuckling over his confusion, Darrow agrees to take... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
James Weldon Johnson and Walter White don’t worry about Darrow’s spotty legal record—many of his clients have still ended up in... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
...wrangle the necessary funding money to hire Darrow and Hays from the NAACP’s executive board, White travels to Detroit, where he smooths over relations with the Black defense team and the... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
The publicity also shifts Detroit’s public sentiment, giving Walter White fresh hope that the defense may win after all. Frank Murphy’s political career depends, in... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
...threat is sufficient for self-defense, even if that belief proves to be inaccurate. And Walter White educates Darrow and Hays on the state of American race relations, giving them reports on... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
On October 30, just as Walter White catches the train from New York to Detroit to attend the trial, the NAACP receives... (full context)
Chapter 9: Prejudice
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
During the initial stages of the trial, Walter White continues the NAACP’s fundraising efforts at a frantic pace. And he sits in the courtroom... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
On the morning of November 14th, Toms rests the prosecution’s case. White believes that the Darrow has already shattered the state’s case in cross-examination and the defense... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
...night of the shooting to firing a weapon from entering evidence. The defense calls Walter White as an expert witness on mob violence. The final witness steps down on the Monday... (full context)
Chapter 10: Judgement Day
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...trial has greatly enhanced Ossian’s social standing. Patients flood his practice and NAACP officers like White treat him deferentially. Concerns do pop up: Gladys and Iva spend much of the winter... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...prevents him from rejoining the defense. Darrow insists that Thomas Chawke replace Hays. This horrifies White, who earlier judged Chawke an inappropriate representative for such a high-profile trial associated with the... (full context)
Epilogue: Requiescam
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...Defense Fund; W. E. B. Du Bois lectures about the Harlem Renaissance’s upward trajectory; Walter White networks and promotes his newly-published second novel. When Clarence Darrow takes the stage, however, he... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...of his lecture fees to the organization as well as regularly consulting with Johnson and White and contributing his writing to the NAACP’s Crisis magazine. He even joins the defense in... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...Weldon Johnson steps away from NAACP leadership to protect his health in 1929, and Walter White succeeds him. Under White’s direction, the NAACP “doggedly pursue[s]” Johnson’s legal strategy, using Supreme Court... (full context)