Great Michigan Read – “Arc of Justice” events

The Grand Rapids Public Library is a partner with the Michigan Humanities Council for the Great Michigan Read. We will be hosting six programs related to Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age. The book is a masterful recounting of a landmark historical event, culminating in an epic legal battle that helped lay the foundation of the civil rights movement. In 1925, African American physician Ossian Sweet purchased a home in a white neighborhood in Detroit. Determined to protect his family and property, Sweet chose to defend himself from the mob organized to drive him out.

Mon, Oct 10th, 7:00pm in the auditorium: Clarence Darrow -American Iconoclast – Andrew Kersten

Dr. Andrew Kersten will present a program on Clarence Darrow, who defended the Ossian Sweet case.  Darrow is America’s most famous lawyer, handling such legendary cases as:  Scopes, Leopold and Loeb, Eugene Debs, and the LA Times bombing. Darrow used the courtroom to fight for or to expand liberties, rights and freedoms. Dr. Kersten is a professor in the department of Democracy and Justice at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay. Kersten is the author of Clarence Darrow – American Iconoclast.

Tues, Oct 18th, 7:00pm in the auditorium -African American Migration to Grand Rapids and the Arc of Justice

Dr. Randal Jelks will discuss the African American community between 1850 and 1954, the years of migration for the majority of the city’s African American population. Jelks will examine the ways in which the community faced urbanization, how they found housing, responded to structural racism, developed in terms of occupations, and shaped their identities. Dr. Jelks is Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Kansas. Previously Jelks taught at Calvin College for 15 years. Jelks is the author of African Americans in the Furniture City: The Struggle for Civil Rights.

Thurs, Oct 20th, 7:00pm in the Vander Veen Center -Arc of Justice Book Discussion

Tim Gleisner from the local history department of the Grand Rapids Public Library will host a book  discussion of Arc of Justice.

Mon, Oct 24th in the auditorium – Author Visit: Kevin Boyle

National Book Award winner Kevin Boyle will discuss his book, Arc of Justice. By telling the story of Dr. Ossian Sweet, Boyle illuminates other historical issues, including the building blocks of the civil rights movement, the Great Migration of African Americans to the North, the social and political climate of the 1920s, and the boomtown years of Detroit. Dr. Boyle is a professor of history at Ohio State University.

Wed, Nov 2nd, 7:00pm  in the auditorium -The Cartography of Race: Neighborhoods, Policy, and the Home Owners Loan Corporation Maps

Dr. Matthew Daley will discuss the racial segregation of neighborhoods and the impact that the financial collapse of 1933 had on the restructure of the mortgage and banking system.  Local officials, lenders and realtors worked with the Home Owners Loan Corporation to disburse funds for mortgages. The maps that the agency created revealed perceptions of neighborhoods that were not always fair to ethnic groups. Dr. Daley is an Associate professor of History at Grand Valley State University.

Wed, Nov 9th, 7:00pm at Wealthy Theatre – Not Your Average Speaker Series: Panel Discussion on Arc of Justice

Co-sponsored by Rapid Growth Media, the panel will take a contemporary look at how neighborhoods change when redevelopment happens in Grand Rapids. Neighborhood redevelopment involves many different forces, and the community should be engaged in what is going on where they live. The panel will be moderated by Beth Byron, retired Assistant City Planner for the City of Grand Rapids, with panelists from the community and members from local neighborhood organizations.


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