The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down America’s Most Powerful Mobster
It would be a fine thing if Stephen L. Carter’s biography of his grandmother, Eunice Hunton Carter, could simply have told the story of her remarkable legal and political career, beginning with her conviction of mobster Lucky Luciano and ending with her key role in multiple international organizations. In the United States, however, for an African American author and subject, such an account is incomplete.
Carter’s splendid telling is overlaid with, and dominated by, the issue of racial prejudice, as were the lives of Eunice Carter, her brother Alphaeus, and the rest of their family. And yet Eunice always moved forward, achieving great things, not perfectly but stubbornly and effectively, like a marathon runner with weights on her ankles. It’s a story worth seeking out, and I encourage you to do so.
I was heartened by the final two paragraphs, which give us a glimmer of hope in troubled times:
One can imagine a different America with a different history: a nation in which two siblings so brilliant and ambitious might have attained the heights to which talent and hard work entitled them. But the darker nation has always been an ocean wave, a wave that began in Africa and has for centuries beat ceaselessly against the artificial but nearly impregnable barriers that whiteness built. The greatest talent in the world could not breach the seawall. Not by itself. Nevertheless, the remorseless pounding has made a difference. Over the years, the seawall that is race hatred has aged. The battering from without has weakened the wall’s foundations. Cracks have appeared. Leaks have sprung. If you listen with the ears of history and optimism, you can hear the inner supports starting to slip.
Today the situation of the darker nation is enormously better than it was in the days when Alphaeus and Eunice crashed against the wall of race. To insist, as some still do, that nothing has changed is an act of willful ignorance—and an insult to the generations who have beaten at the wall. But to say that the wall is weakening is not to say that it is no longer there. The barrier of whiteness has proved resilient. Those who shelter behind the wall are constantly shoring it up, often without realizing what they are doing. No matter. The wall is weakening. It did not fall in the lifetimes of Eunice and Alphaeus. It will not fall in ours. In the end, however, the logic of justice and the demands for freedom will overwhelm it.