“The Trial of the Century”

A new book about the case of Dr. Ossian Sweet was released this week. Dr. Sweet was a wealthy and successful black doctor in Detroit in the 1920s. While attempting to move into a home he had purchased in an all-white neighborhood in 1925, the Sweet family and some of their friends were attacked by a white mob which surrounded the home. After one man died in the melee, Dr. Sweet and nine friends and family members were charged with murder. Clarence Darrow, recently famous for his oratory during the notorious Scopes “Monkey trial,” agreed to accept the case. One trial resulted in a hung jury, and a second jury acquitted the defendants of all charges.

” … What Dr. Sweet did was probably more American than most things that we consider today,” said Baxter, 38. “He had to fight for what he believed in. That’s what America is all about.

“I grew up always aware of Dr. Sweet. I kind of became the official spokesperson for the house. We’d have college students from as far away as Florida stop by to get firsthand experience of where Dr. Sweet lived.”

Over the years, the visitors waned. But Baxter has noticed a resurgence in interest.

On July 18, the National Black Prosecutors Association will be in Detroit for a convention. A ceremony is scheduled to unveil a Michigan historical marker on the house’s front lawn.

“That marker to me means everything,” Baxter said. “It acknowledges not just Dr. Sweet but all African Americans who had to struggle to be enfranchised with those unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” …”

> From Freep: “RACE RELATIONS IN EARLY 20TH CENTURY: 1925 trial of black Detroit family who defended itself against a white mob is detailed in historical book”
> Purchase the book on Powell’s: “One Man’s Castle: Clarence Darrow in Defense of the American Dream”

Author: Rob