Lessons about Rubin “Hurricane” Carter’s Life

Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter

A lawyer who knew Hurricane Carter writes on the lessons his life taught about the dangers of racism and the strength of the human spirit. 

In 1966, when Carter – then a top professional boxer – was first convicted by an all-White jury for slaying three of their kind in a local bar, the governor of Georgia was fighting desegregation with a pick-axe. Now his successor, Jimmy Carter, was on the way to the US presidency, preaching racial harmony and quoting Bob Dylan in his campaign ads. Rubin's original 1966 conviction for an apparently motiveless triple murder was based on palpably inadequate evidence and came at a time when he was a contender for the world middleweight title. Yet Carter was re-convicted on even weaker evidence at his retrial in 1976 and returned to prison.

Not until 1985 was this wrongful reconviction overturned. His story inspired one of Dylan's best protest songs and Norman Jewison's fine movie, in which he was played by Denzel Washington. As a warning against possibility of convicting – and executing – the innocent because of prosecutors who play the race card and hide exculpatory evidence, the story of "the Hurricane" has a significance that will outlive his death.

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