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Malice Aforethought: The Sweet Trials

Author's Notes

This play is a documentary, insofar as that is possible within the limitations of the stage. More than 2,000 hours of testimony, statements, newspaper reports, and reminiscences have been reduced to two acts—and in the process it has been necessary to create some fictions, for structural reasons. For example, eighty witnesses are represented by eight. Some of them speak words from the testimony of several, and I have used composite names in such cases.

On the other hand, I have not changed the names of officials and historical personages, even when I have occasionally had to add words to fill out an incomplete record. Despite these scholarly solecisms, I believe the play represents, as fairly as the medium will allow, the truth about what happened in this case.

I would like to acknowledge the help I have received from the staff of the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library; Officer Louis Feurino, Inspector Isom-Bryant, and the Detroit Police Department; Mary Kynast of the University of Detroit [Mercy] Library; Catherine Caraher of the University of Detroit [Mercy] History Department; Professor Allen Saltzman of the University of Detroit [Mercy] Law School; and my two research assistants, Natile Robertson and Tom Galasso. Many others, too numerous to mention, have also helped bring this project to fruition. To all of them, I am extremely grateful. AJB.

Director's Note (1987 performance)

The Theater Company is proud to represent the University of Detroit [Mercy] [first performed in 1987] in celebrating the Michigan Sesquicentennial with this world premiere production. The Executive Director of the Michigan Historical Society calls the Sweet case “a milestone in the civil rights jurisprudence.” It was the first Michigan case to be memorialized by a a plaque in the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice. Lowell Cauffiel, writing in the Detroit News, said: “It would pave the way for equal treatment for blacks many decades before Martin Luther King or Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. The message from Detroit was clear.”

I would like to thank the Michigan Council for the Arts and the guest artists who have made this production possible. DLR

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