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Boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, symbol of racism, dies at 76

Boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, who became a symbol of racism in the U.S. justice system following two convictions on charges of murder, died Sunday at 76.
A Dec. 13,1964 photo of Rubin Carter.
A Dec. 13,1964 photo of Rubin Carter.

Boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, who became a symbol of racism in the U.S. justice system following convictions on charges of murder, died Sunday at 76 after battling prostate cancer. Carter was convicted twice of the same murders, in 1967 and 1976, both which were later overturned. 

Carter was released in 1985 after a federal court reversed his conviction on the grounds that his constitutional rights had been violated. Carter and an associate, John Artis, who were both black, had been convicted in the 1966 murders of three white men in New Jersey based on the testimony of two witnesses who later recanted. Prosecutors alleged that the murders were acts of "racial revenge" committed in retaliation for the killing of Leroy Holloway, the stepfather of one of Artis and Carter's friends, earlier that night. Carter, an Army veteran who spent time in prison shortly after leaving the armed forces, earned the nickname "Hurricane" for his skill as a middleweight boxer.

Carter's case was popularized by a song written by folk singer Bob Dylan, and actor Denzel Washington earned an Academy Award nomination for portraying him in the 1999 film Hurricane. Following his release, Carter became an activist focusing on inequities in the criminal justice system.

"[P]rison is bitterness. Prison is violence. Prison is hatred. Prison is humiliation. Prison is degradation. Prison is all of those things, and those things are imposed upon us. No matter who you are or what you’re in prison for, whether you’re innocent or guilty, it makes no difference. Everybody is affected by a prison," Carter told PBS' Tavis Smiley in 2011. "Prison, Tavis, is the lowest level of human existence that a human being can exist on without being dead. That is what prison is, and that affects everybody. Not just prisoners, but guards, social workers, psychiatrists, warden."