Arc of Justice by Kevin Boyle does a lot more than tell an account of an incident in 1920s Detroit, it goes deeper into the problems of people within the city as well as the city itself. The story focuses on Ossian Sweet, a man from a small town called Bartow, Florida whose parents sent him up north so he could have a chance to make something of himself, which he did. This, however, did not change the fact that he was a black man living in early 20th century America, and moved into the city of Detroit which was known to be the most segregated city in the United States (p. 344) Boyle digs into the personal life of Sweet, as well as the lives of people around him- black and white- to give the reader a clear, realistic aspect of how life was like in 1920s Detroit.
The beginning of the novel depicts Sweet’s transformation from a country boy in Florida to an up-and-coming successful doctor in the busy city of Detroit. At the mere age of thirteen, Ossian was sent from the small farm his parents Henry and Dora had to the college in Ohio by the name of Wilberforce. There Ossian began his learning on a campus that was now where near as greatly funded as the white colleges like Harvard. From there he moved on to Howard University, where Ossian got an eye opener about himself as well as the problems with race. When he began his teaching in Harvard in the late 1910s, the race riots were a constant threat, and by living in Washington DC, Ossian got to see a lot of it.
Kevin Boyle. Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2004. 1, 346 pp.
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