Using trial transcripts, the program reveals the story of Dr. Ossian and Mrs. Gladys Sweet, an African American couple who moved into an all-white Detroit neighborhood in 1925. Expecting violence, they and their friends armed themselves to defend the home. On September 9, a member of an angry mob that formed nearby was shot and killed. Was it murder or self-defense? Listen to the prosecution and Clarence Darrow's defense to decide.
WATCH THE REENACTMENT*
Sweet Trial Final Script.pdf
Sweet Trial Curriculum Guide.pdf
Discussion Question: Considering the political, economic, and racial issues in Detroit in 1925, should Dr. Sweet have moved into the home on Garland Street? Why or why not?
: The Great Michigan Read
in 2011: Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Era
by Kevin Boyle.
- *language warning: The introduction includes an important note about language. The script contains quotations of language commonly used in the 1920s, which may be offensive to modern ears. These words are quotations of what people are documented to have said, as reported in Detroit newspapers and in the trial transcripts. This langauge has been retained in order to reflect the intensity of attitudes of the times. No disrespect is meant to the historical characters or to present-day audiences.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: The Michigan Supreme Court Learning Center is part of the Great Michigan Read, which is presented by the Michigan Humanities Council with support from Meijer and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the Michigan Humanities Council.
The Learning Center would like to thank Albers Feuer, the script's author and moderator for teh inaugural performance of the NYCBA trial reenactment in 2007. Without his generosity in sharing the script and other materials, this program would not have been possible.