Since its inception in 1912, the Detroit Branch NAACP has been steadfast in the belief that racial segregation and discrimination limit and diminish human potential, ultimately denying the full benefits of freedom to African-Americans. The Detroit Branch NAACP has been at the forefront of the struggle to eliminate racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
African-Americans and America itself are eternally indebted to W.E.B. DuBois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Henry Moscowitz, Mary White Ovington, Oswald Harrison Villiard and William English Walling who answered the clarion “call” for human and civil rights in response to the widespread lynching of blacks that was occurring in 1909 by creating the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Thereafter, when federal, local government and civil authorities failed or refused to stop the daily lynching, the NAACP took action.
In 1925 the NAACP provided legal representation for Detroit, Michigan’s Dr. Ossian Sweet. Dr. Sweet faced a mob of angry whites after moving into an all white neighborhood. When the mob attacked his home, gunfire erupted killing one person in the crowd. Dr. Sweet and his brother were charged with murder. Famed attorney Clarence Darrow, retained by the NAACP, represented Mr. Sweet. The first trial ended in a mistrial when an all-white jury could not agree. The second trial ended in a not guilty” verdict. This early NAACP supported case coined the phrase, “a man’s home is his castle.”
Racism within our criminal justice system has changed its face, having become more subtle and sophisticated, but just as destructive as in the past. Today, the struggle continues as we combat not lynching, but racial profiling and driving while black.