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20 May 2016

Celebrating Great Women in History Eunice Hunton Carter: Women’s rights activist, mob buster

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May 20, 2016 Category: Diaspora Posted by:

ABOVE PHOTO: Eunice Hunton Carter


Eunice Hunton Carter worked as an international peace and women’s rights activist. Carter was born on July 16, 1899, in Atlanta, to William Alphaeus, Sr. and Addie Waite Hunton, who were prominent educators and activists. Her family moved to Brooklyn, New York, when she was just 5-years-old in response to the Atlanta Race Riot of 1906.

Carter attended Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. where she attained both her B.A. and M.A. degrees. While writing her masters thesis, she was introduced to then-Massachusetts Gov. Calvin Coolidge.

After graduating from college, she worked as a social worker before marrying her husband Lyle Carter in 1924. After the birth of her son, she began studying law at Fordham University, and in 1934, she became the first black woman to pass the New York State Bar.

Carter entered politics in 1934 when she was nominated by the Republican Party to represent New York’s 19th District in the State Assembly. She was the first African-American to gain the Republican nomination for that office. Carter’s campaign centered on the need to reduce the age limit for pension, enforce compliance with legal standards for tenement housing, and the continuation of unemployment insurance. She lost by 1,600 votes.

After the riots in Harlem, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia appointed her as secretary on the Committee on Conditions. She was also appointed as deputy assistant to Special Prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey.

Carter provided the essential legal strategy in convicting Charles “Lucky” Luciano, the most influential Mafia crime boss in New York City, by marshalling a massive assault on organized prostitution. Authorities raided 200 brothels to gain testimonies against Luciano, which eventually came from three sex workers. At the time, this was the largest organized crime prosecution in U.S. history.

Carter served as Assistant District Attorney of New York County for ten years. Carter died in 1970 at the age of 70.


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