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Book Discussion Series Fixes the ‘Arc of Justice’

by Rod Jones

The Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma book discussion series at Oklahoma City University will continue at 7 p.m. Oct. 11 with “The Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age” by Kevin Boyle. The discussion will be held in Walker Center room 151, located near the center of campus at N.W. 26th Street and Florida Avenue.

The series is made possible through a grant from Oklahoma Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities with funding from the Pulitzer Prizes Centennial Campfires Initiative.

The true story of “The Arc of Justice” follows a young African American doctor named Ossian Sweet, who sought to buy a house in a majority-white neighborhood in Michigan and was resisted by the existing residents. Boyle deftly explores the man’s personal history and the legal case that grew out of a hazy incident of violence, while linking it to larger issues of race and the national epidemic of racial violence in the period, which includes the riots in Tulsa in 1921.

The discussions this season are under the theme Civil Rights and Equality: A Pulitzer Prize Centennial Series. The theme features five Pulitzer Prize-nominated or -winning books that explore civil rights issues using specific historic or contemporary moments. Together these books lead readers through the lives of fully realized individuals experiencing inequality in settings that have not yet fully realized their democratic ideals. Tracy Floreani, director of the Center for Interpersonal Study through Film & Literature at OCU, says the series looks at events beyond what many consider the Civil Rights movement in U.S. history.

“Our collective imagination calls forth the black-and-white photojournalistic images of brave marchers under attack and the resonating voices of the leaders who led court cases and civil actions throughout the 1950s and ‘60s. But the fundamental notion of civil rights has been built into the value systems of our culture from the beginning,” Floreani said.

At each session in the series, a humanities scholar makes a presentation on the book in the context of the theme. Small group discussions follow with experienced discussion leaders. At the end, all participants come together for a brief wrap-up.

Those who are interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Center for Interpersonal Studies at 405-208-5707 or [email protected].

Remaining dates and books in the series include:

  • 25, “A Plague of Doves” by Louise Erdrich
  • Nov. 1, “Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity” by Katherine Boo
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