African American professional boxer and activist, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter (1937-2014), was in a boys' home as a child.
Rubin Carter was born in Clifton, New Jersey to Lloyd and Bertha Carter, 1 of 7 children. Lloyd Carter worked 2 jobs to support his family, was a deacon in his local Baptist church, and a hard task master. He sent Rubin to work at the age of 8 cutting and delivering ice.
When he was 11, Rubin stabbed a man and was sent to the Jamesburg State Home for Boys.
After 6 years at Jamesburg, the now 17-year-old escaped and went to an aunt’s home in Philadelphia. There he enlisted in the Army and thrived; he became a paratrooper, began boxing, overcame a stutter via speech therapy and became interested in Islam (but never converted).
Carter was honourably discharged from the Army in 1956, but shortly after was arrested and sent to the Annandale Reformatory to serve 10 months for having escaped from Jamesburg.
He also served 4 years in Trenton State Prison for having snatched a woman’s purse and assaulted a man back in Paterson.
In 1961, on his release from prison, Carter began his professional boxing career, “winning 13 of his first 21 fights by knockouts.”
In 1967 Rubin Carter and an acquaintance, John Artis, were convicted of the murders of a white woman and 2 white men. The convictions were overturned in 1985 and formally dismissed in 1988.
Rubin Carter moved to Canada on his release from prison and became a Canadian citizen. He was an executive director for the Association in Defense of Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC) and in 2004 he founded Innocence International with John Artis to campaign against wrongful convictions. Carter published his autobiography in 2011.
Bob Dylan in 1985 recorded a song—The Hurricane—about Carter’s wrongful conviction, and the story was also told in a 1999 film of the same name starring Denzel Washington.