“It has all the elements of a great story. I mean, really fascinating figures. … I’m from Michigan, from Detroit, and it’s a place I care an enormous amount about. It was a chance to write about a place I love. It’s not the most flattering picture of Detroit, but I tried to give the most honest one.”
Author Kevin Boyle, on his book Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in Jazz Age.
The Michigan Humanities Council is proud to announce the 2011-12 Great Michigan Read, Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age. The Council’s early announcement allows statewide educators ample time to review and prepare for fall curriculum.
Written by Detroit native Kevin Boyle, Arc of Justice tells the story of African American Dr. Ossian Sweet and the chain of events that occurred after he purchased a home for his family in an all-white Detroit neighborhood in 1925. The book won the 2004 National Book Award for nonfiction, was named a 2005 Michigan Notable Book, and was selected for the Great Michigan Read by a group of nearly 50 librarians, teachers, students, professors, authors and more from across the state.
“I’m absolutely thrilled and caught off guard,” Boyle said. “There’s nothing more exciting than imagining people in my home state reading my book.”
The Great Michigan Read is a free statewide humanities initiative inviting Michiganians to read and participate in book discussions and events in their hometowns. Intended for young adults to senior citizens, the Great Michigan Read aims to make literature more accessible and appealing, while also encouraging residents to learn more about their state. In the fall the Council will host an author tour, where Boyle will visit selected communities to discuss the book.
“It’s a chance to engage in a statewide conversation on some of our most-pressing issues – things like equality and justice,” said Greg Parker, program officer for the Michigan Humanities Council.
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.
“When you think about civil rights and race relations, you automatically think about Alabama and Mississippi,” Boyle said. “So I was really trying to talk about race issues in the northern front.” "