Arc of Justice

Arc of Justice

by

Kevin Boyle

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The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is a civil rights advocacy organization founded by Black and white activists, including W. E. B. Du Bois, in 1909. Its early efforts were focused on rolling back segregationist Jim Crow legislation in the American South and, increasingly, the North as well. Following World War I, the organization’s focus on legal challenges to segregationist laws and policies expanded to include public education, lobbying, and legislation against lynchings. Under the leadership of James Weldon Johnson, the organization increased its membership tenfold, and by the early 1920s it boasted 90,000 members organized into local chapters nationwide. Under the direction of Johnson and his assistant Walter White, the NAACP took over the direction of the Sweet cases, securing the services of famed criminal defense lawyer Clarence Darrow and parlaying the publicity from the trials into successful fundraising and public awareness campaigns.

NAACP Quotes in Arc of Justice

The Arc of Justice quotes below are all either spoken by NAACP or refer to NAACP. For each quote, you can also see the other terms 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 3 Quotes

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

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 7 Quotes

With its fight against restrictive covenants, though, the NAACP believed it had a way to show its erstwhile allies that in the era of the KKK they were not assured of being on the safe side of the color line. Already the NAACP had reports of builders barring Jews from new housing developments. And there was every reason to believe that Anglo-Saxons would soon extend such prohibitions to Catholics and immigrants as well. Every opportunity they had, association officials hammered the message home. Agreements that denied blacks access to the homes of their choice were “the entering wedge of the Ku Klux Klan program of elimination.”

Related Symbols: Houses
Page Number: 204-205
Explanation and Analysis:

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:
Get the entire Arc of Justice LitChart as a printable PDF.
Arc of Justice PDF

NAACP Term Timeline in Arc of Justice

The timeline below shows where the term NAACP appears in Arc of Justice. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3: Migration
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
...prominent Black and white activists form the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). (full context)
...dead, hundreds injured, and thousands homeless. The president refuses to condemn the violence, and the NAACP leads a silent protest march down New York’s Fifth Avenue. (full context)
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
...the president calls the National Guard and a rainstorm quells some of the violence, the NAACP forcefully claims that Black self-defense ended the white violence. Ossian may not participate in the... (full context)
Chapter 4: Uplift Me, Pride
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
...the need to behave with decorum and embrace hygiene. At the same time, the local NAACP branch engages in litigation fighting segregationist policies. And they step in to provide legal aid... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
But when the national organization poaches the Detroit NAACP branch’s charismatic leader, the local branch disintegrates. By the time Ossian arrives, despite solidifying power... (full context)
Chapter 5: White Houses
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
...pride he learned through his education. A new generation of leaders have revitalized the local NAACP chapter, including Dr. Edward Carter and others of Ossian’s colleagues. On the night of the... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
...He likes the way his resolve impresses his peers. He listens to encouragement from the NAACP, which asserts that if race riots are the price to pay for Black people asserting... (full context)
Chapter 6: The Letter of Your Law
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...join Ossian’s defense. A neighbor, who happens to be on the board of the Detroit NAACP chapter, picks up Watson’s call to Charles Mahoney. Rowlette and Mahoney both grew up facing... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
...the shooting, on Saturday, Perry, Rowlette, and Mahoney finally get access to their clients. The NAACP will cover all costs associated with their defense and has planned a massive fundraiser. Ossian... (full context)
Chapter 7: Freedmen, Sons of God, Americans
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
As soon as James Weldon Johnson, the executive secretary of the NAACP, sees the Sweets’ story in the newspapers, he grasps its potential. Even in the North,... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...consular appointment, sending Johnson as an American representative to Venezuela and Nicaragua. Now, as the NAACP’s first Black executive secretary, he interfaces between the primarily white board of directors and prominent... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...in the North. Even Johnson’s beloved Harlem neighborhood owes its existence to housing discrimination. The NAACP has been mounting legal challenges to segregated housing for several years, including a successful Supreme... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
But Johnson’s fundraising efforts face an uphill battle: the white press largely ignores the NAACP, and Black communities aren’t paying much more attention. But Johnson pays attention, especially to Detroit,... (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 American literary elites. Although he is mixed race and therefore considered... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...But conflict quickly arises. To avoid further inflaming the racial divisions in the city, the NAACP executive board wants a white defense lawyer. But the current attorneys balk at the idea.... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
...News of the Sweets’ arrest spreads through the national Black press, carefully spun by the NAACP and connected to their ongoing Supreme Court challenge. Stories emphasize Ossian’s injured pride and the... (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 to make way for a white lawyer. But news... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
...of approval, Otis joins Charles Washington, Leonard Morse, and William Davis in appealing to the NAACP to assume control of a case that has ramifications for the “inalienable rights under the... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
At NAACP headquarters, a letter arrives from the chief counsel of the Chicago Defender. Because the case... (full context)
Chapter 8: The Prodigal Son
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
...Garfield Hays. Johnson and his associates secure an appointment with Darrow the same afternoon. The NAACP contingent lays out the details of the case. Darrow, assuming that two of the three... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
Three months after Scopes, the NAACP approaches Darrow with the Sweets’ case. Although his father had exposed the young Darrow to... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...provocations that the Black community—especially in the racial tinderbox of Detroit—can hardly bear. But the NAACP primarily wants publicity due to their fundraising goals. (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
...Johnson tries to 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... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
...directly endorse violent self-defense, especially where the “authorities fail to protect.” Donations flood into the NAACP. Free on bond, Gladys becomes the defenders’ public face. She enjoys the attention. Ossian receives... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
...Walter White catches the train from New York to Detroit to attend the trial, the NAACP receives word that a major donor will cover the costs associated with Darrow’s work and... (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 most days, networking... (full context)
Chapter 10: Judgement Day
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
...Gladys travel to New York City as the special guests and headlining celebrities of the NAACP’s annual business meeting in January 1925 where a crowd of 1,500 Black Harlem residents applauds... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
The NAACP’s Washington, D.C. segregation case finally reaches the Supreme Court late in 1925, after the Sweet... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...doubt, the first 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... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...who earlier judged Chawke an inappropriate representative for such a high-profile trial associated with the NAACP thanks to his mob ties and no-holds-barred courtroom style. After a few days of negotiation,... (full context)
Epilogue: Requiescam
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
One month after the second Sweet trial ends, the NAACP holds its annual convention in Chicago’s South Side. James Weldon Johnson celebrates the promise of... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
Clarence Darrow spends the rest of his life advocating for civil rights. He joins the NAACP’s executive board in 1926 and becomes one of its most dedicated champions. He donates a... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
James Weldon Johnson steps away from NAACP leadership to protect his health in 1929, and Walter White succeeds him. Under White’s direction,... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
But racism and segregation still flourish, even in the North. The NAACP’s challenge of the restrictive covenants in Washington D.C. fails its Supreme Court challenge shortly after... (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
...in divorce, and he remains childless. His attempts to run for the presidency of the NAACP’s Detroit chapter, the Michigan State Senate, and the U.S. Congress all fail despite his fierce... (full context)