In 2021, the Society is celebrating Black History Month every month, spending the year looking back at the impact of Black New Yorkers on the legal history of the state.
Eunice Hunton Carter was the real-life heroine who inspired a character on the HBO series Boardwalk Empire. She was only the second woman in the history of Smith College to receive a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in four years. She then went on to earn a law degree from Fordham School of Law and start her own practice.
After the 1935 riots in Harlem, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia appointed her to the Commission on Conditions in Harlem. That same year, Special Prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey appointed her his assistant in one of the most prominent mobster prosecutions in American history. She was the only African American and only woman on the 10-member staff and was instrumental in the successful prosecution of Lucky Luciano where she earned the title “Lady Racketbuster.” Carter served as Assistant District Attorney of New York County for 10 years. During that time, Dewey named her to lead the Abandonment Bureau of Women’s Courts.
She later entered private practice and connected her work with the National Council of Negro Women to international issues. In 1955, Carter was elected to chair the International Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations.
She died in New York City in 1970, at the age of 70. Her grandson Stephen L. Carter, a professor at Yale Law School, wrote Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down America’s Most Powerful Mobster and participated with his daughter Leah Aird Carter in our 2020 webinar Invisible No More: The Eunice Carter Story.