I picked this book up for my woefully unfinished 999 Challenge. It won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2004, which is why it made it onto my list. (You can look at my whole list here. I think I've only read about 10% of them!) It also finishes off my New Author Challenge, which is exciting. Good thing that one doesn't take nearly as much work.
Arc of Justice is the story of Ossian Sweet and his family, and the murder trial they become involved in when the Sweet family attempts to move into a part of Detroit where they are not welcome. The Sweet family is black, and in 1920's Detroit, this means they cannot live where they choose, especially following the race-related violence of 1924 and 1925. When a mob gathers outside of their new home and begins throwing rocks and getting more and more violent, shots are fired, although by whom it is never fully clear. Dr. Sweet had filled his house with friends to help defend it from the violence he knew was coming. When one man in the mob dies after being shot from the house, the eleven people in the house, including Ossian's wife and two of his brothers, are taken into custody and eventually charged with murder.
This book is not just the story of the Sweet family and the trial, however. It is a story of race relations in the northern urban areas of America in the 1920's. Boyle does a tremendous job bringing all aspects of the story together to educate us on this issue. I am continually amazed by how little I know about the history of race relations in this country. This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to know more about our recent past.