Rubin "Hurricane" Carter Papers, 1950 -- 2014


Title: Rubin "Hurricane" Carter Papers
Dates: 1950 -- 2014
Bulk Dates: 1995 -- 2009
Creator: Carter, Rubin
Call Number: MS226
Size: 21.6 Cubic Feet, 6 Digital Object(s)
Language(s): English  
Permanent URL:
    Digital Collections and Archives, Tufts University


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.


This collection is arranged in 9 series: Awards and artifacts; Business and financial records; Clippings, fliers, and programs; Correspondence; Court cases; Photographs; Printed materials; Subject files; and Writings.


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.

Access and Use

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Requests for reproduction will be forwarded to Carter's designees. The designees will negotiate any fees for permission and publication.

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.

Collection History

Processing Notes

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.

This collection is processed.

Custodial History

Gift of Rubin Carter, 2014. This collection was packed by Anne Sauer in May 2013. In November 2014, Sherman Teichman briefly housed the papers, and they were brought to the Tufts Institute for Global Leadership in late November/early December 2015 and transferred to the Digital Collections and Archives.

Subjects and Genre Terms

Series Description

  1. Awards and artifacts, 1989 -- 2012

    Awards consist of the many honors bestowed on Carter from organizations as varied as the U.S. House of Representatives and the House of Commons of Canada to the Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame. Awards include certificates, plaques, and objects such as globes, clocks, and keys to the city. Artifacts include a pair of boxing shorts and a mouthguard, a yarmulke, pins, a gavel, and paperweights, some sent to Carter by fans.

    1. 1.1. Awards, 1989 -- 2012
    2. 1.2. Artifacts, 1989 -- 2011
  2. Business and financial records, 1980 -- 2013

    Carter's business and financial records document his career as a motivational speaker, author, consultant, and prisoner advocate. Records include contracts, correspondence, meeting notes, proposals, royalty statements, scripts and transcripts for television appearances, and travel plans and agendas.

  3. Clippings, fliers, and programs, 1964 -- 2011

    Clippings, fliers, and programs consist of articles in newspapers, magazines, and other publications on topics in which Carter had an interest, and fliers and programs from events he attended, including boxing matches, the Academy Awards, and speaking occasions.

  4. Correspondence, 1983 -- 2013

    The bulk of Carter's correspondence is fan mail, detailing his influence on hundreds of correspondents from many countries. There is also some personal correspondence with friends and family, and an incomplete run of telephone message books dating from 2008-2011. Some correspondence is unopened. Please consult an archivist regarding access to unopened materials. Many fans sent Carter financial contributions, which have been removed. Gifts that fans sent Carter, such as CDs, DVDs, and books, were left in place. Business correspondence may be found in series 2, business and financial records.

  5. Court cases, 1989 -- 2014

    Court cases include legal documents, clippings, correspondence, fliers, memos, newsletters, notes, and other materials relating to cases in which Carter had an interest. Related files may also be found in series 8, subject files.

  6. Photographs, 1950 -- 2012

    Photographs consist mainly of images of Carter with his friends, family, and colleagues. Photographs also document Carter's homes, vacations, and events at which he appeared. There are a few photographs of Carter with well-known figures such as Nelson Mandela, Denzel Washington, and Norman Jewison, and with exonerated prisoners. There are both prints and negatives in this series.

  7. Printed materials, 1967 -- 2004

    Printed materials include reprints and books sent as gifts to Carter, and often inscribed.

  8. Subject files, 1950 -- 2012

    Subject files contain materials on a wide range of topics, in varying formats. Major subjects include Carter's work at the Association in Defense of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC) and other organizations with which he was affiliated, speaking engagements and business ventures, prisoners in whose cases Carter was interested, and information on legal cases. Formats include clippings, correspondence, legal documents, memos, reports, agendas, minutes, notes, and reprints. Topics in this series overlap with materials in series 2. business and financial records, series 5. court cases, and series 10, writings.

  9. Writings, 1970 -- 2012

    Writings include Carter's notes, speeches, and drafts of articles and books in computer printout, typescript, and manuscript formats. There are also writings by other authors sent to Carter for review. Older material in this series is somewhat tattered and should be used with care.

    1. 9.1. Writings by Carter, 1970 -- 2012
    2. 9.2. Writings by others, 1997 -- 2009

View Online Materials

Some of the materials from this collection are available online. Not all materials have necessarily been digitized.