Daniel Baxter knows his history, but there’s a difference when you own a part of it. Baxter is the author of the book Detroit 1925: The Ossian Sweet Story: An Account of Triumph and Tragedy, which tells the story of Dr. Ossian Sweet, a physician who moved to Detroit in the 1920s and was charged with murder while using self-defense against an angry mob of White people.
Baxter grew up and presently owns the historical Dr. Ossian Sweet Home in Detroit and is soon making it a public museum for others to learn about the start and history of the physician.
What is this book about?
On Sept. 8, 1925, African-American Dr. Ossian Sweet, his wife, two brothers, and seven friends moved into a house in Detroit. On the second day, all hell breaks loose. A mob of 500 angry whites converged around his house, and as they were ready to stand to defend their home, shots rang out of the house, and a man was killed. The police department comes in and arrests everybody, and charges them with first-degree murder. An attorney proclaims that a man’s home is his castle, whether he is White or Black. After the prosecution rests and the defense rests, it’s placed in the hands of the jury. The jury comes back after 46 hours and says they can’t come to a decision; they throw the case out and declare it a mistrial. It’s the first time in the history of the United States of America that a Black man is accused of killing a White man, and he doesn’t go to jail for it.
Why are you passionate about telling this story?
Because of what Dr. Sweet did, it inspired me to go back to school to get my degree in political science and history. It inspired me to work at the Detroit Department of Elections and be at the highest position of director of elections. It allowed me to administer the 2020 presidential election down at the TCF center when bad actors came and tried to undermine the Democratic process by saying, ‘Stop the count. Stop the count,’ and intimidating voters. It inspired me to be the best Daniel Baxter that I can be. My hope is that when someone reads this book, they’ll look at their life and reflect upon what Dr. Sweet had to endure back in the 1920s… He was able to obtain his bachelor’s degree from Wilberforce University and his medical degree from Howard University. He studied abroad over in Europe, understanding the impact of radiation on the human anatomy. Then he comes back to Detroit, and he decides he’s an American citizen and has the same right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. As a result, he purchased the house on Garland Avenue. So what it does for me is it compels me to stretch and be the best, and I’m hoping that it’ll do the same thing for someone else.