New park planned around Dr. Ossian Sweet’s house in Detroit
(WXYZ) – A new upcoming municipal park in the eastern part of Detroit centers around a house, located on the corner of Garland and Charlevoix.
“This is an important lesson, not just for African Americans, not just for Detroiters, but for all Americans,” said Prosecutor Butch Hollowell.
In 1925, the house belonged to Doctor Ossian Sweet.
Today, 96 years later, I joined Hollowell and Daniel Baxter on the front porch as they described what was to come and what happened the night after Sweet moved his family into the neighborhood house. all white.
“On September 9, 1925, it was a stifling evening. This was the site where a crowd of four to 500 people invaded this house to prevent Dr. Ossian Sweet from entering this part of Detroit, ”Hollowell said.
Sweet had taken refuge in his bed on the second floor as the crowd gathered and began to pelt the house with stones.
“Right at that window two stones come in and when the glass shatters he rests on Dr. Sweet. And not even 10 seconds later, a volley of shots rang out from the house, ”added Baxter.
Sweet’s brother, Henry, had shot at the crowd, hitting and killing a protester. A white teenager was also shot in the leg.
The most famous lawyer of the time, Clarence Darrow, defended Sweet and the others in the house who were all arrested and charged with murder.
“He was able to win with an all-white jury, saying that it’s endemic in our fiber to be able to defend, not only your home, but also to be able to live freely where you would like to be able to live,” Hollowell said. . “The legal principle here is taught in law schools today.
The trial was declared annulled. A second trial – for Sweet’s brother, Henry – ended in an acquittal.
The Baxter family have owned the Sweet House since 1958. Daniel grew up here.
“I was born in 1965 and had one of the best childhoods a child in East Detroit could have and it was thanks to the sacrifice Dr. Sweet made on September 8 and 9, 1925” , Baxter said.
Thanks in large part to Baxter’s efforts, the house is now listed on both state and national registers of historic places.
It will become an interactive museum and the centerpiece of the city’s ambitious park plan which also includes the restoration of two vacant houses directly across the street.
As a first step, the crews cut and cleaned the bushes and overgrown trees from the lots and alleys behind them during our visit.
The city received a federal civil rights grant of $ 500,000 for the project – a figure Hollowell hopes to match with support from the private sector and the philanthropic community.
“We’re going to recreate the courtroom where that dramatic final argument was delivered by Clarence Darrow,” Hollowell said. “They’ll be able to sit there and watch the jury platform and the witness stand, and Frank Murphy sitting at the head as a judge, so they can feel this trial.”
“We want the authenticity of what happened here, why it was so important for the cause of housing and integration (17:12:32) and for educational purposes,” he said. added.