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Rubin "Hurricane" Carter Papers
Scope and Contents
The Rubin “Hurricane” Carter papers consist of Carter’s personal papers, including business and financial records; clippings and programs; correspondence; notes, writings, and speeches; extensive subject files; and records of court cases. The collection also includes photographs of Carter and others; numerous awards and honors; and artifacts such as a pair of boxing shorts and a mouth guard sent by a fan. Subject files include memos, agendas, minutes, correspondence, and reports from the Association in Defense of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC). The bulk of the material dates from the mid-1990s through the 2000s, although there are notes, writings, and correspondence dating back to Carter’s imprisonment in the 1970s-1980s.
The collection documents Carter’s involvement with non-profit legal organizations seeking to exonerate those wrongly convicted, and his career as a motivational speaker and author, as well as his personal life. Subjects include social justice, legal reform, philosophy, and boxing.
Carter suffered a house fire in 2004. Surviving records, particularly the subject files, are smoke damaged and retain the strong scent of deodorizing materials used in post-fire remediation.
- Majority of material found within 1995 -- 2009
- 1950 -- 2014
Language of Materials
Conditions Governing Use
Some material in this collection may be protected by copyright and other rights. Please see "Reproductions and Use" on the Digital Collections and Archives website for more information about reproductions and permission to publish.
Any intellectual property rights which the donor possessed have been transferred to Tufts University.
21.6 Linear Feet
6 Digital Object(s)
Biographical / Historical
Rubin Carter was born on May 6, 1937, in Clifton, New Jersey, to Lloyd and Bertha Carter. At age 14, he was convicted of robbery and assault and sent to the Jamesburg Home for Boys in New Jersey, from which he escaped at age 17 to join the Army. There he took up boxing, and was discharged in 1956. A year later he was convicted of robbery and assault and spent four years in Trenton State Prison. He became a professional boxer on his release in 1961, narrowly losing the World Boxing Association middleweight championship in 1964. Carter and his friend John Artis were arrested in 1966 and charged with committing three murders at the Lafayette Bar in Paterson, New Jersey. Despite inconsistencies in testimony and conflicting evidence, Carter and Artis were found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.
While in prison, Carter published The Sixteenth Round: From Number 1 Contender to #45472 (1974). Musician Bob Dylan read the book and visited Carter in prison in 1975, leading to the composition of his song “Hurricane,” which raised public awareness of Carter and his case. The two identifying witnesses recanted their testimony, and in March 1976 the New Jersey Supreme Court overturned the convictions of both Artis and Carter. At a second trial in December 1976, prosecutors argued that Carter and Artis were motivated by racial revenge, and they were again convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Carter and lead attorney Myron Beldock continued to appeal his conviction with the assistance of members of a Canadian commune. On November 7, 1985, Judge H. Lee Sarokin of the United States District Court in Newark overturned the second conviction and ruled that the prosecutors had withheld evidence and violated the defendants’ constitutional rights. Carter was released the next day after a bail hearing.
In 1988, Carter moved to Toronto, Canada. In addition to a career as a popular motivational speaker, he was the Executive Director of the Association in Defense of the Wrongly Convicted from 1993-2004. He worked with the Innocence Project to exonerate the wrongfully convicted and founded Innocence International in 2004. His autobiography, Eye of the Hurricane: My Path from Darkness to Freedom, written with Ken Klonsky, was published in 2011. Carter received numerous awards and honors, including honorary doctorates from Griffith University and York University (2005) and an honorary championship belt from the World Boxing Council (1993). In 1999, a movie was released based on Carter’s experiences starring Denzel Washington in the title role, The Hurricane.
Carter married Mae Thelma Basket in 1963, and they had two children, Theodora and Raheem. They were divorced in 1984. Carter was remarried in the 1990s to Canadian commune leader Lisa Peters, whom he later divorced. Carter died on April 20, 2014, in Toronto, of cancer.
Original order and titles of materials were preserved where they existed. This is particularly notable in correspondence, photographs, and subject files, in which the majority of materials bear Carter’s original titles. In November 2015, John Artis assisted with the identification of some photographs and the assignment of date ranges to some of Carter's writings. His notes were photocopied and placed in the relevant folders.
Sticky notes were left in place. The majority of materials were left in their original envelopes. Some correspondence is unopened. Please consult an archivist regarding access to unopened materials.
Items containing personally identifiable information; photographs of a personal nature; duplicate and out of scope publications; and checks and currency, a total of .3 cubic feet, were removed from the collection and returned to the donor's designees in November 2015.
- African American boxers
- African American history
- Association in Defense of the Wrongly Convicted
- Capital punishment -- United States
- Criminal justice, Administration of
- False imprisonment
- Judicial error -- United States
- Prisoners -- United States
- Social Justice
- Trials (Murder) -- New Jersey -- Paterson