Phyllis Vine

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Click below for a curriculum guide for high school teachers.

One Man’s Castle: Clarence Darrow in Defense of the American Dream

In June 1925, Dr. Ossian Sweet, a talented black doctor who had recently returned from study in Paris and Vienna, and his wife, Gladys, signed a contract to buy a new home. Eager to settle in Detroit, America’s fourth largest city, they placed a non-refundable deposit of $3,500 on a brick-faced, two-story, three-bedroom home on an ordinary street in an immigrant neighborhood. Mindful of the string of attacks on black homeowners nationwide, they carefully planned the details of a move in order to call little attention to themselves. Yet by noon, people had already taken to the streets where with children in hand they gathered in clusters to gawk and stare at their new neighbors.

On September 9, 1925, Dr. Sweet was arrested for defending his home--the home he had lived in for a single day--against an angry mob, armed with rocks, led by Ku Klux Klan sympathizers. The charge was murder.

One Man’s Castle: Clarence Darrow in Defense of the American Dream, unearths the forgotten life of this remarkable doctor. It chronicles his journey north during the age of segregation, his professional training at Howard University and the Sorbonne, and it recreates the trial, going inside the courtroom and behind the scenes to set the stage for the brilliant defense waged by the NAACP and Clarence Darrow. “My clients are here charged with murder,” Darrow told the jurors in a summation lasting eleven hours, “but they are really here because they are black.” A textured background includes the story of racial atrocities from lynching to state-sponsored legislation to eliminate property rights of black citizens as well as the struggle for justice over prejudice waged by all-white male jurors.

Kirkus has called One Man’s Castle “an important slice of American legal history and the history of civil rights.” Blanche Wiesen Cook promises, “Everyone concerned about justice and human rights will benefit from this book." And Derrick Bell notes it has “ramifications for our times.”

Selected Works

One Man’s Castle: Clarence Darrow in Defense of the American Dream
Clarence Darrow's landmark trial defending Dr. Ossian Sweet, an accomplished black physician who defends his home from the attack of a Klan-inspired mob. Studs Terkel says it may be Darrow's "most important" case. "It reads like a thriller. . .but for the fact that it's true."
Families in Flux
Part of the Feminist Press Series of books about women's lives, work and history.
Families in Pain: Children, Siblings, Spouses, and Parents of the Mentally Ill Speak Out
The experience of families of persons with mental illness told through families.

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