Ninety-five years ago – in 1926 – Clarence Darrow defended Henry Sweet, who was charged, along with 10 friends and family members, of murder after he and the others used armed self-defense against a hostile white crowd protesting after Henry’s brother Ossian, an African-American physician, and his family moved into a Detroit neighborhood. One white man was killed, another wounded. After the first trial against all the defendants ended in a mistrial, the court accepted the defense motion to sever the cases and the prosecutor decided to try Henry Sweet first. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People hired Darrow to assist in the defense.
Because of the pandemic, the annual March 13th event commemorating Darrow’s work to address issues that still challenge our communities was limited to the outdoors with brief comments, a short reading from Darrow, and the flower tossing ceremony. Instead, actress Sheri Flanders recorded the excerpts that follow from Darrow’s closing in the Sweet case.
Sheri Flanders is a Chicago-based multi-hyphenate artist, and is an actor, comedian, writer, and visual artist. As a freelance journalist, her work has been featured in several publications including the Chicago Sun-Times, The Chicago Reader, Rescripted The Chicago Defender and McSweeney’s. In both 2020 and 2021, she was invited to cover the Sundance Film Festival as part of their Press Inclusion Initiative. Additionally she is a writer of sketch comedy, musicals, and screenplays. Sheri is an instructor at the Second City Training Center, and her performance background ranges from improv, stand up, musical theater, commercials, Shakespeare, corporate training and voice over work.