1925 September 9

White Mob Attacks Ossian Sweet’s Home in Detroit; Famous Trial Results

 

Dr. Ossian Sweet, an African-American, bought a house in an all-white neighborhood in Detroit and moved in with his family. On this day, a white mob attacked the house, throwing stones and breaking upstairs windows. Dr. Sweet had asked nine other men to be in the house for protection, and some of them brought guns. Guns were fired at the mob, killing one man and wounding another. Sweet and his friends were arrested and tried for murder. The first trial ended in a hung jury. When Henry Sweet, Ossian’s brother, was acquitted in the second trial, the prosecutor dismissed the charges against the other defendants.

The trial involved two famous or soon-to-be-famous individuals. The judge was Frank Murphy, who was appointed U.S. Attorney General on January 2, 1939, and who later became Governor of Michigan, U.S. Attorney General, and a Supreme Court Justice (January 18, 1940). The defense attorney was Clarence Darrow, who had just finished handling the famous Scopes “Monkey Trial” that began on July 10, 1925.

Read about the case: Kevin Boyle, Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age (2004)

Learn more about the trial: http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/sweet/sweet.html

Read: John A. Farrell, Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned (2011)

Watch a short documentary on the Sweet trial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_9OMUTauKU

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