Memorialized in a Bob Dylan song and an Academy Award nominated portrayal by Denzel Washington, Rubin Carter was known as “The Hurricane” in his days as a middleweight prizefighter. But in 1966, he was accused of a triple homicide in his home town of Paterson, New Jersey. Carter, and a co-defendant, staunchly maintained their innocence, that they were not in the bar room where the shootings occurred. Both black, they were convicted by an all-white jury, despite dubious testimony by the only supposed witness.
After more than 19 years behind bars, Carter was exonerated when a federal judge declared the witness “unbelievable” and the trial racially charged. But beforehand, Carter had become deeply embittered. Eventually, as chronicled in his 2010 spiritual memoir, he came to realize that feeling victimized robbed him further of his freedom.
In this story, we hear how he transcended the “inner prison” of hatred, self-hatred and playing “the victim.” Recorded at age 74, Carter advocates on behalf of other prisoners who were wrongly convicted, an incarcerated population estimated to number in the tens of thousands in the United States. A remarkable and provocative story on many levels, including excerpts of Dylan’s famous song.
The alternative to being a victim is being free. That’s the alternative to being a victim. Freedom or victimhood. And freedom is far better than victimhood could ever be. That’s free from thought. Free from doubt. Free from all of these things that cause us so much problems. Free from being black. Free from being a man. You know, free from being a human being! I don’t want to be a human being. Human beings hate one another. They kill one another. I want to be a human becoming something other than a human being. I want to be an awakened, enlightened soul, where I can walk on this earth and see everybody on this earth as the beautiful flower that they really are.”
—Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter, Retired prize-fighter, exonerated of a wrongful murder conviction (Photo Credit Sue Folinsbee)