In the book Arc of justice : A saga of race, Civil Rights and murder in the Jazz by Kevin Boyle we try analyse its significance in the process of delivering justice and fair judgement to people which is an essential human right. This is a story of a sensational murder trial which divided a city and it was responsible for the outburst of civil rights struggle. The story by Boyle shows the racial situation which was there during the early 19th century. He narrates a story of Ossian Sweet who was an African-American doctor.
The main focus of the story is during the day when hell broke loose for the innocent African-American doctor on the evening of September 9, 1925. Ossian Sweet had struggled so hard to have a decent job and cater for his family and eventually he moved to Detroit where he had acquired a new house. To start with the house was sold to him at a very high price due to the colour of his skin. This was because most of the dwellers there were whites and were discriminative. They isolated themselves from the black Americans who were ill treated. His new neighbours from the day that Ossian and his family moved in started to plan on how they would drive him off the town since they did not want any presence of them. Similar incidences had earlier on occurred in which the Detroit mobs had driven away other blacks who had come to live peacefully in the town with their families. Boyle also provides a history of Ossian’s family and also a history of reconstruction and Jim Crow in the south. He also shows the great migration to the industrial Northern cities of America in the years that followed World War One. The book also shows how the ghettos and the residential segregation development from the economic and social changes during the 1920’s and how racism contributed to escalating this.
The economic activities and the social events of the people during the period is examined and the changes in these activities is outlined. The racial discrimination especially against the blacks was very high during the period and the black were treated as animals to the extent of lynching them. This was so inhuman and it makes us understand the extent in which justice was almost never practiced since it was not bad to lynch a black person which is so inhuman.
The story of Ossian is used to depict the lifestyle that the black people experienced which was very difficult. Ossian sweet was born in Florida and when he was just thirteen years of age he was sent to the North to be educated. Later on he moved to Detroit, Michigan and it was in 1921 that he established a medical practice which was successful. Since the job was doing well he and his wife decide to purchase a home in 1925 since he had the money. This was rare since most of the African-Americans then was poor and could not afford buying a home in Detroit. Dr. Ossian was respected in the community and he saw no harm in living among the white people since all he wanted was to raise a good family and live happily. His aim was to move his family from the ghettos and relocate in a better place according to his living standards. He relied on his status to protect him from the white people who were now his neighbours and apart from hearing stories of the persecution of other blacks that lived it the same area he was not ready to move out. He knew of the risks that he was taking but he and his family refused to be intimidated and opted to remain in the same neighbourhood that had caused the death of his fellow blacks. The author tries to clearly show the innocence of Ossian and his family and the struggle that they had undergone to reach the current happy position that they were in during the difficult times of the 1920’s.
On the unfortunate night after moving in the new neighbourhood Ossian brought nine of his friends since he was afraid of the white neighbours and he also bought some guns and a handful of ammunition to help protect his family. Boyle portrays Ossian as a person who had pride and was obsessed with material things and status and could do anything to get respect from the community including risking the lives of his family. To ensure that his security and his family were safe, Ossian had informed the police officers who had moved in his house to provide him with security. When the neighbours were coming rioting and throwing stones at his house, the police officers who were meant to protect his family are seen not to be doing anything. They did not move to stop the angry mob but staid there watching. Ossian does not respond to the attacks immediately. He is seen to be calm although the situation needed reiteration in order to protect his family form the mob that was thirsty for his blood. During that time someone from the inside of the house shot into the street, wounding one white man and killing another. After the incident the police arrest all of the occupants of the house who included Ossian’s wife and his friends. After being taken to court they are charged with murder on the first degree. This as Boyle portrays it is a very unfair decision since the family was protecting itself from the angry mob. This is shocking since if it were a white the setting of the incident could have been a different story.
Boyle shows that the trial took different meanings instead of defending the human rights. After a long trial Sweet’s victory made little difference in the battle of racial discrimination since Ossian had anticipated that it would help to outline the fact that all the people were to be treated equally with no preferences based on the colour of the skin. The trial though was full on investigations conducted by the police and the appearance of the legal genius Darrow who was a good defender of the oppressed Boyle’s narratives becomes courtroom drama. His victory makes America to be aware of the extent of racial discrimination and makes the country to be ashamed of the inhumanly act which had caused the loss of so many lives. This led to the withering of the Ku Klux Klan which was responsible for the riots and demonstration at Ossian’s house and the clan has deep roots since the police who were supposed to provide protection to Ossian and his family were also members of the clan.
The story shows that justice can be blind at times and this can be of devastating effects and can cause a huge imbalance in the society.