Rubin "Hurricane" Carter was riding a wave of success. The survivor of a difficult youth, he rose to become a top contender for the middleweight boxing crown. But his career crashed to a halt on May 26, 1967, when he and another man were found guilty of the murder of three white people and sentenced to three consecutive life terms.
Written from prison and first published in 1974, The Sixteenth Round chronicles Hurricane's journey from the ring to solitary confinement. The book was his cry for help to the public, an attempt to set the record straight and force a new trial. Bob Dylan wrote his classic anthem "Hurricane" about his struggle, and Muhammad Ali and thousands of others took up his cause. The power of Carter's voice, as well as his ironic humor, makes this an eloquent, soul-stirring account of a remarkable life.
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About the Author
Rubin "Hurricane" Carter was released from prison in 1988. Former chair and CEO of Canada's Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted and, since 2005, CEO of Innocence International, Dr. Carter is the author of Eye of the Hurricane: My Path from Darkness to Freedom. His life has been the subject of three books and a major motion picture, The Hurricane, starring Denzel Washington. The recipient of honorary doctor of law degrees from Griffith University, Australia, and York University, Toronto.
Read an Excerpt
The Sixteenth Round
From Number 1 Contender to Number 45472
By Rubin "Hurricane" Carter
Chicago Review Press IncorporatedCopyright © 1974 Rubin "Hurricane" Carter
All rights reserved.
THE FIRST ROUND
RUBIN, my Christian name, comes from the Book of Genesis, chapter 29, verse 32 of the Holy Scriptures. Other than both of us being black, that's about the only thing the Bible and I ever had in common.
HURRICANE is the professional name that I acquired later on in life. It provides an accurate description of the destructive forces that rage within my soul.
CARTER is the slave name that was given to my forefathers who worked in the cotton fields of Alabama and Georgia, and was passed on to me. The name is like any other — worthless — but it's the one that appears on my birth certificate.
The kindest thing that I can say about my childhood is that I survived it. I was born of devout Christian parents, May 6, 1937, in Delawanna, New Jersey, a small suburb of Clifton in Passaic County. My father, like his father and his eleven brothers, were all God's little children — preachers of the faith. Since I was the youngest of three sons, and neither of my brothers desired to tread on the heels of our religious father, it was always hoped that when I became of age, I would be the one to follow in his footsteps and choose the ministry as my way of life.
Considering that my father was a senior deacon in an impressive Baptist church, and that my family was thought to be somewhat better off than most, I can't really say that I was a victim of circumstance, or that the environment of my early life was unkind to me. I simply didn't have to bear the hardships and miseries that some of my black brothers and sisters living in the ghettos did; trigger mechanisms of violence — such as inadequate supplies of food, clothing, or shelter — were absent. My family didn't have the very best in material advantages, but we always managed to live comfortably.
I don't know at what age one becomes aware of the problems — or rather, the moral precepts — society lays down for us to live by, but since my earliest recollections are of a time I pressed my nose against an icy window pane to watch the snow falling outside, and of heat, this autobiography begins around the age of five.
This was during the winter of 1942, a cold, bleak period in the United States: Pearl Harbor had just been bombed, and America was at war with two flanking countries at the same time. Fuel and food were being assiduously rationed out, and confrontations across both seas were rampaging furiously. At that time my family consisted of three boys and two girls: Lloyd Junior was the oldest; then came Lillian, James, and myself; then Beverly, the baby.
Our home was in a four-family apartment building in Passaic, and since we didn't enjoy the modern conveniences we have today, our principal fuel was wood or coal. Our friendly heat-maker was a monstrous, fuel-devouring four-plated burner, which we considered ourselves extremely lucky to have; not all families had stoves of this caliber then. Although our coal bill was exceptionally high, the stove was something we cherished.
My mother and father, Bertha and Lloyd, were born and raised in Georgia. On very cold evenings our family would gather around that homely stove and roast peanuts that had been sent to us by relatives still living in the South, while Dad would tell us strange stories about his childhood on the farm.
He would talk about stubborn mules named Sam or Jennie — white mules who wouldn't plow unless you called them "sir." He also told us about the snakes, coach-whipping snakes that could beat a man to death; ghosts that could scare a man to death; and tobacco-chewing crackers whose greatest pastime was tarring niggers, hanging niggers, and just plain killing black folks on some general principle.
Although I didn't understand the reasons for the things the crackers did to the niggers in Dad's stories, I would listen, enthralled, as his voice turned to an emotional whisper and his eyes brightly burned. Taking off my shoes, I would spread my legs out toward the warmth of the stove and allow my mind to race through the Georgia swamps with some big, terror-stricken nigger who had a pack of whooping crackers and howling dogs hot on his trail. Man! I was scared to death just thinking about it. But these were times we all enjoyed, pleasant evenings we always looked forward to.
Each family in our building had equal floor space in the basement for the storage of their coal — providing they had any. Since it was the duty of us boys in the family to replenish the fuel supply whenever we needed it upstairs, one of us would have to go back and forth to the cellar at least four or five times a day.
One day this irritating task fell to Jimmy. With the coal box in the house nearly empty, Jimmy, being very obedient (my father would tear his ass up if he wasn't), hurried to the cellar and was confronted with a neighboring family's son — the dreaded bully of the block — who, to make an already bad situation worse, was stealing our coal.
This young fellow was so bad he was even nicknamed "Bully." With flat African features pasted to a high-ridged head that easily could have belonged to a pancake-faced gorilla, he was short, powerful, shiny black — so black that a blue shadow seemed to lie upon him — and ugly enough to break daylight with his fist.
This lad's home was somewhere in the deep bayou country — Mississippi, I think — and it was very easy to picture him, even at this tender age, walking behind an old gray mule, sniffing farts, or picking cotton. This sucker was out there, and mean as a black bear during mating season.
Jimmy, on the other hand, was not a rough type. He was slender and more inclined to use brains than brawn. (His overt display of intelligence later carried him to bachelor's, master's, and doctor's degrees.) His handsome face, which was usually smiling, marked him as being good-natured and of a pleasant disposition. All in all, Jimmy was meek and kind of humble and, I venture to say, somewhat on the timid side. Physical conflict was not his cup of tea.
Unfortunate as it might have been, this was one confrontation he couldn't avoid: if he didn't get the coal and let the fire in the stove go out, my father would skin his ass alive when he came home from work that night. So it was either an ass-whupping downstairs or an ass-whupping upstairs. Jimmy chose the former, and rightly so.
What went on downstairs he later told us himself. It seemed that when he first stumbled upon Bully stealing our coal it scared him almost to death. He knew he couldn't stop, or beat, this black gorilla, so he decided to try a little cunning, hoping to appease Bully, get our coal, and get the hell out of there.
"Hi, Bully," Jimmy called, with a sheepish grin on his face.
But Bully wasn't going for none of that funny shit. Without further provocation — other than that of getting caught stealing our coal — he sprang on my brother and unleashed a brutal attack that left Jimmy thoroughly beaten. Jimmy got out of that basement as fast as his little legs could carry him, making it upstairs for safety and assistance. Meanwhile big bad Bully, confident that there was no one to stop him now, returned to pillaging our coal.
Help for little Jimmy was not to be found upstairs. My mother and father had already gone to work, leaving my oldest brother in charge. Lloyd Junior undoubtedly could have taken care of the little hoodlum, had he seen fit, but, from what I saw, he had little inclination to do so and displayed no concern in the matter whatsoever.
This was more than I could bear. Jimmy was hurt, crying something awful. His nose was already swollen, spreading across his face, blood pouring from it constantly. But no one paid any attention to him — no one except me — as he sobbed through his story. Listening, I was confused: this situation was asking too much of my inexperienced mind. My emotions completely overpowered what little sense of reason I had, if indeed I had any at all. Every fiber of my body became taut with the anticipation of what must be done. My only thought was that the Carter family had to be avenged.
I imagine it was because I was immature that the only thoughts that came to me were those of violence. Bully's size and strength, prowess and daring, never entered my mind. Without uttering a word, and before anyone could think to stop me, I bolted down the stairs.
When I reached the cellar, I vaguely made out the outline of Bully's body in the obscurity of the coal bin. His features blended almost perfectly into the blueness of the coal he was stealing — this cat was just that black. Then, as my eyes became accustomed to the darker darkness around him, I realized that my quarry had not yet discovered me. He had his broad back to me and was nonchalantly heaping Lloyd Carter's coal into his bucket.
The element of surprise was in my favor. At that time I didn't know anything about fighting fair; in fact, I didn't know anything about fighting, period. But before my roguish opponent could straighten up and defend himself, I hurled my body into him with all my might, and with a vengeance that shocked even me. I hadn't known I was capable of such feelings.
Bully tripped and went down. I crouched over him, whaling like mad, until he finally managed to fight his way back to his feet. We stood toe to toe, slugging it out, swinging for all we were worth. Then I landed a sizzling haymaker against his bullet head, and he started backing up, with me crowding him, firing on him. The fighting became easier then, and I found I liked it. The more we fought, the better I seemed to get.
A shiver of fierce pleasure ran through me. It was not spiritual, this thing that I felt, but a physical sensation in the pit of my stomach that kept shooting upward through every nerve until I could clamp my teeth on it. Every time Bully made a wrong turn, I was right there to plant my fist in his mouth. After a few minutes of this treatment, the cellar became too hot for Bully to handle, and he made it out the door, smoking.
This was my first experience in fist fighting, and the fruits of my victory were sweet indeed. I could feel the pull of the little muscles interlinked and interchained from my fingertips to the small of my back. I felt the muscles in my legs too, from hip to toe, supporting me as I swayed, tired now. But dammit, I felt good. Even though I had come out with a busted lip, I had beaten the big bad block bully — and, man, I was hot-to-trot to fight some more.
Bully, however, must have run straight home to his black mammy. I couldn't begin to guess at the excuse he gave for his appearance, but it must have been a winner. Because the moment my mother and father came home from work that night, they were confronted with Bully's weeping mammy screaming accusations of how unmercifully I had beaten her poor little manchild.
My father entered my bedroom quietly and woke me up. I eased out of bed joyfully, not making a sound, being very careful not to arouse my sleeping brother. I was confident that Daddy was going to lavish royal praises on me for saving his coal, and I was just as anxious to tell him that I knew how to fight. I didn't want Jimmy awake for this, no, sir. I wanted to bask in the sunshine of Daddy's thanksgiving all by myself.
But when I entered the kitchen, my father yoked me with an unfamiliar roughness. He locked my head between his knees, pulled my pajama bottoms off, and whaled on my ass with the cord from the iron. I knew this wasn't for saving his coal. I jerked and sputtered, twisted and stuttered, desperately trying to find out what I had done wrong. But all my inefficient struggles and tears were in vain. I couldn't talk. I had an acute speech impediment at that time and could never say three clear words that made any sense to anyone but me.
But what hurt more than anything else was that my father didn't even try to find out of his little son had been justified in his actions or not. And being the deacon that he was — I suppose — he readily accepted someone else's version because it had come from an adult, and not because it was the truth. He could at least have tried to get my side of the story, I felt, or even my brother's or Lillian's. No. He believed Bully's black picker-headed mammy — and I'll bet she was the one who had sent Bully over in the first place. They surely didn't have any coal for themselves.
That beating is the first I can distinctly remember, and it was one of many just like it that would follow in its wake, some of which, I think, were totally uncalled for. But in my father's eyes they were ratified and sanctioned by the Holy Bible.
Thus began my first real awareness of my existence. I imagine such a blatant event was necessary to prod the faculties of my brain into full consciousness. It seems to me to have been similar to the birth of a baby — that is, to the moment the physician slaps the infant's buttocks and provokes his first sensations, indicating the proper functioning of his respiratory system.
Well, when my father got through with me that night, I couldn't say for sure what it did for my respiratory system, but I knew damn well that it interfered with my system of sitting down for quite some time.
Early the following morning I was awakened with the rest of the kids for school. I was enrolled in the kindergarten of Public School No. 7 and had been there for one half-term. I remember the family being somewhat solemn as we sat down for breakfast that morning, although the table was, as usual, heaped with plenty of succulent goodies to eat: southern-fried ham, eggs and hominy grits, steaming hot biscuits with Argo syrup, and plenty of butter on the side.
Man! Even though my butt was blistered, there was nothing wrong with my stomach, and I was ready to grease. But before anyone dared touch a morsel of food on the table, my father, seated at its head with his eyes closed and his hands folded, began his daily ritual of saying grace. We all had to follow his example.
"Dear Lord," he would reverently begin, "we are thankful for the food which we are about to receive...."
But on that morning I didn't close my eyes. I just sat there looking at my daddy as his voice droned on emotionally, wondering how he could be talking to the Lord in such a convincing manner and know that he had unnecessarily abused me the night before. I couldn't understand it, and I was hurt. Hurt as only a small boy could be when his dad, his idol, has rejected the one contribution he feels he had made to the family — saving their coal.
When school was out that day, Jimmy came to take me home. We all attended the same school, so the task of taking me back and forth fell into the hands of Lloyd, Lillian, and Jimmy. I remember the weather as being very mean that wintry afternoon. It had been snowing exceptionally hard all day, and the snowdrifts were piled high.
As we struggled homeward, Jimmy suddenly clutched his stomach, became violently sick, and fell to the ground, vomiting. The whites of his eyes were the only signs of life I could detect in his dark face, and he trembled as if he were freezing over. This really scared me, and I immediately threw myself to the ground in the snow beside him and grabbed his coat, trying to pull him up.
"Jimmy! Jimmy!" I cried, brushing snow off his face. "Get up! Get up, Jimmy. Jimmy, please get up."
But he didn't seem to hear me. He just lay there, shivering, gagging, and trying to catch his breath. A group of school kids gathered and stood around looking at us like damn fools, but no one offered any help. Eventually someone — an older student, more than likely — told some teachers about what was taking place outside, and they rushed to help my brother. I was kneeling beside him in a snowdrift when they came and threw me aside to get to him.
I don't know why, but somehow I got the impression that they were handling him much too roughly for people trying to help him. This feeling reactivated my newly discovered fighting abilities, and as they struggled to pick Jimmy up, I tore into them for all I was worth, punching, kicking, and biting anything that got in my way.
"Leave my brother alone!" I cried, fighting desperately and feeling that same extraordinary sensation of the previous day welling up in me again. "Leave him alone! Leave him alone!" I fought all the more furiously as they got him up and started for the building.
Excerpted from The Sixteenth Round by Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. Copyright © 1974 Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
The Preliminary 1
The First Round: The Beginning 4
The Second Round: The Birth of Vengeance 12
The Third Round: A Fight for Life 26
The Fourth Round: Hell Hath No Fury Like the State Home's Scorn 43
The Fifth Round: Here Come the Headwhuppers! 63
The Sixth Round: The Death of a Young Soul 71
The Seventh Round: Vindictiveness 77
The Eighth Round: Free, Free at Last! 93
The Ninth Round: The Epitome of Ignorance 106
The Tenth Round: Getting It All Together 119
The Eleventh Round: Trying to Make It Real Compared to What? 135
The Twelfth Round: Prison Is a Place Called Hell 160
The Thirteenth Round: Hit 'Em Hard and Hit 'Em Fast 186
The Fourteenth Round: The Awful Scream of Silence 224
The Fifteenth Round: American Justice-Jersey Style 251
The Sixteenth Round: What Will Your Verdict Be? 308
Prize Fighting Record 33
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Beautiful story i almost cried
This was the best book ever! I couldn't stop reading it. It was so cool to see the story from Carter's side. I just loved it. You definetly shoud read the book. The only thing bad was it was kinda long. Otherwise it was the best!
it was a very good book to read and the suspense though out the book was excellent. The movie is also very good (and accurate)In my opion this is one of the best pieces on rubin carter that has been written today.(i have read 3 diffrent books about 'the hurrican') Thank you for reading my review
I think this book and movie was so outstanding, i just makes you want to cry. I was so touched and happy to see and read such a good book. I would giv this book a million stars if i could
This IS a must. The Movie was good, but the book told so much that the movie doesn't. IF you don't have a copy, buy one today. You will not regret it. When I read it, I could hardly put the book down. I had noticed that someone else had said to check out the other Rubin Carter things: I will, and I recommend you do too. Denzel Washington does awesome protraying Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter
This is cool, i no speak good to eanglish but i think that men RUBIN is cool coolcoolcoolcoolcoolcoolcoolcoolcool
THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS I HAVE EVER READ! I COULDN'T PUT IT DOWN. READ IT
I think Rubin Carter's autobigraphy was an excellent idea. Although the swearing is much it adds the feel to the situation. It's a book that opens the eyes of the reader with the truth of real life and enprisonment. It's a good book with a good moral.
WOW, thats the easiest way to describe the book. Been researching Rubin Carter for over 4 yrs now, and i have made its foundation my lifes work. I research into crimes of racial injustice for ppl that r still in jail for crimes they have not committed. **Read the book, it changed my life...**
Great Story for more info on Rubin Carter: See the Movie Hurricane, and the Song Hurricane By Bob Dylan
This book was really good. Now I know that life is so important. And how u will never know when it's going to end.
ive just read a litle piece of the book and its realy a story what i never forget petry bosch (holland)