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Publishers Weekly, 2004-02-02 In this engaging narrative, Vine (Families in Pain) uses the harrowing prosecution of Dr. Ossian Sweet for murder to chronicle the deplorable state of race relations throughout the country in the early decades of the last century. Born in 1894 in the segregated town of Bartow, Fla., Sweet managed to obtain a medical degree, study in Europe and establish himself as a promising member of Detroit's emerging "black bourgeoisie" while still in his late 20s. Having witnessed a lynching as a seven-year-old child, Sweet was anything but na?ve about the dangers faced by blacks who tried to cross the racial divide that permeated every aspect of American society during the Jim Crow era. Vine sets the stage for the central courtroom drama by summarizing critical events that shaped the racial climate, which included the release of D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation, a reinvigorated Ku Klux Klan, rigid segregation and the exodus of Southern blacks to the factories of the North. Aware of these factors, Sweet kept a low profile when buying a house on a mainly white street in Detroit. Nevertheless, a mob assembled within a day and began hurling rocks and racial epithets. Not to be intimidated, Sweet and others in the house fired back at the crowd, killing one man and injuring another. Murder charges followed. Fortunately, the NAACP was able to persuade the renowned Clarence Darrow to take up the defense in 1925. In the end, Vine offers a stark reminder of our history of racial intolerance. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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