Saturday 23 September 2017

Hurricane's legacy is of truth trumping power

Carter's fame and eventual vindication manage to obscure his greatness as a man

Former American boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter, who worked for the cause of the wrongly convicted after his release from prison, died at the age of 76
Former American boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter, who worked for the cause of the wrongly convicted after his release from prison, died at the age of 76

Donny Mahoney

In 1974, my mother left her home in Galway and moved to Rahway, New Jersey, a town about 20 miles from New York, with a group of Irish nurses. At the time, the town's most famous resident lived in the maximum security prison on the outskirts of the town overlooking Highway 1&9. His name was Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter. He was wrongly convicted of killing three white men in a New Jersey bar.

Carter died a free man on Sunday, of prostate cancer. He was released, of course, back in 1985, after serving almost 20 years in prison. His innocence was celebrated by Bob Dylan. Denzel Washington portrayed him in film. But, oddly, his fame and eventual vindication manage to obscure both his greatness as a man and the transformation that took place in Rahway's solitary confinement cell, better known as 'The Hole'.

"The kindest thing I can say I about my childhood is that I survived it," Carter wrote in 'The Sixteenth Round: From Number 1 Contender to Number 45472', the scathing autobiography and testimony of innocence that he wrote in Rahway prison. In the book, Carter describes his journey to prison via a professional boxing career and youth corrupted by institutional racism, poverty, reformatory schools and the US military.

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