Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you: Al Capone was sent to prison for tax evasion and not for murder. Fewer people know that the equally notorious Lucky Luciano was brought down in 1936 for compulsory prostitution. And almost nobody knows that the lawyer who brought Luciano to justice was a black female attorney working on Special Prosecutor Thomas Dewey’s team. Eunice Hunton Carter, Invisible author Stephen L. Carter’s grandmother, was brilliant, ambitious and courageous. The fact that so few know her name has far more to do with bias than her ability or her determination.
Hunton Carter was the daughter of William and Addie Hunton, both prominent civil rights advocates. Addie Hunton in particular bore fearless witness to racial discrimination wherever she found it, whether in the heart of Klan territory or on the Western Front of World War I. Their daughter inherited their intellect, talent, drive and fortitude. With magnificent self-discipline, she achieved an impressive array of accomplishments, including earning a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Smith College, earning a J.D. from Fordham while doing social work full time, successfully negotiating the byzantine Harlem social pyramid and heading the largest division of the New York District Attorney’s Office. She was a tireless campaigner for the Republican party.
With this record, Hunton Carter should have been a judge or a prominent elected official. Instead, she was stymied, disadvantaged by her race and her gender, as well as by her brother’s communist leanings. A lesser woman would have thrown in the towel. Instead, Hunton Carter persisted, and she launched a new career as an international peace advocate.
In Invisible, Yale law professor and bestselling author Stephen L. Carter meticulously details his grandmother’s accomplishments and her disappointments. His admiration for this remarkable woman is infectious. Ultimately, the reader is forced to ask, “What if?” What if Hunton Carter had lived in a world where race and gender were irrelevant? What else would she have accomplished? And what would we have gained?