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According to Sweet's account, he was out alone at night and a mile or more from his home, where he watched from the bushes as Rochelle was burned at the stake.
Sweet took work shoveling snow, stoking furnaces, washing dishes, waiting tables, and working as a hotel bellhop to pay the $118 for his tuition and books.
Sweet became a charter member of the Delta chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi and earned a bachelor of science degree at the age of twenty-five.
Sweet's parents had instilled religious traditions in him, and they wanted Ossian to go north and get an education.
He was sent to Wilberforce University in Xenia, Ohio, the first African-American college to be owned and operated by blacks.
They wanted to avoid his ever being a victim of Southern racial violence.
Established by a collaboration of white and black Methodists in the 1850s, it was taken over by the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) during the American Civil War.He attended Wilberforce for eight years; the first four were spent in prep school studying Latin, history, mathematics, English, music, drawing, philosophy, social and introductory science and foreign language (probably French) to prepare for college, because he needed additional education beyond what had been provided in his segregated Florida schools.
With little money, Sweet arrived in Detroit, Michigan in the late summer of 1921, a time of speakeasies, jazz music, liquor, and slumming.Each brought their own social tensions to the city."Despite its name, Black Bottom wasn't really a colored area.As migration increased, so did competition for jobs and housing, and segregation in the city.It attracted European immigrants and rural blacks in the Great Migration, as well as rural whites.Rochelle, captured by black males and turned over to the sheriff, admitted to attacking and murdering a white female, 26-year-old Rena Smith Taggart, with a butcher knife in an apparent rape attempt.