Arc of Justice is the story of Ossian Sweet, an African American doctor, who was convicted of murder in the 1920's. Ossian Sweet was born in Florida. When Sweet was just thirteen years old his parents sent him North to get an education. He moved to Detroit, Michigan in 1921 and established a successful medical practice.
Dr. Sweet and his wife decided to purchase a home in Detroit in 1925. He had enough money to purchase the home, even though the owner asked a higher price of him that was asked of a white family. Sweet was a successful doctor and even had a chauffeur. He wanted his family to live in a nice neighborhood. He knew that moving into this neighborhood would make a statement, but he was at the same time realistic. Dr. Sweet was well-known and respected in the community, but he knew that his status would not protect him from racist people who did not want Blacks living in what was considered “white neighborhoods”. He'd heard the stories of others, including Dr. Alexander Turner, who had been persecuted.
Dr. Sweet and his wife completely understood the risks they were taking, but they refused to be intimidated. They knew the police wouldn't help. They planned to stay off the treats as much as possible, to avoid the attention of their white neighbors. The Sweets left the baby at her grandparent's at first, until they were sure they would be safe. The first night they stayed in their house they were terrified. The police had more than twelve men outside their home for protection and told them to be on guard. Sweet asked friends to stay with them, in case they were needed. They stayed up all night with their rifles at their sides. They were persecuted. The police did not protect them as they promised. Many of the officers in Detroit were also members of the Ku Klux Klan.
Even though Dr. Sweet and his wife knew of the dangers and risks, they still chose to move into this neighborhood.
This report prepared by Jeanne Milligan