This piece is by the Travelin’ Cousins, a little blog about the travel adventures of a couple of cousins.
by Elisa Valentino
January 18, 2019
As a graduate of Fordham University, it warms my heart to hear stories about graduates from my Bronx Alma Mater. Of course, coming out of this prestigious institution of higher learning are countless success stories in virtually every area of life. I was particularly moved by one graduate’s journey and accomplishments as I paged through my latest issue of Fordham magazine.
Who would have thought there would be a connection between Fordham’s prestigious law school, a determined African American woman and notorious mob boss, Lucky Luciano.
In a time when it was the rarest of circumstances for a woman – let alone a black woman to pursue a professional life in law enforcement, Eunice Carter achieved a few firsts. With a dream and s desire from the time she was 8 years old, Ms Carter is quoted as saying that she wanted to be a lawyer “to make sure the bad people went to jail.“
Put the bad people in jail indeed, as she would go on to do. As this granddaughter of slaves persevered in an era when women were not looked upon as equals in the work force, least of all law enforcement, Ms. Carter graduating from Smith University, and went on to earn a law degree from Fordham Law School in 1932.
A graduate of the class of 1932, Ms Carter attended law school while raising her son and working a full-time position as a supervisor in the Harlem division of the Emergency Unemployment Committee. No easy task even in today’s world of modern conveniences and equal rights.
After receiving her law degree, she became the first African American woman to serve as a New York assistant district attorney, as well as the only woman and person of color on the team. Her team was led by the future New York governor Thomas E. Dewey and what they would accomplish would go down in the annals of law enforcement history for bringing one of the country’s biggest gangsters to justice.
According to Fordham magazine article, Pioneering Prosecutor, written by Ray Legendre, Carter’s grandson, Yale Law School professor and best-selling author Stephen L. Carter, recounts his grandmother’s time at Fordham, her meteoric rise as a prosecutor, and her work on the Charles “Lucky”Luciano case in his new book, Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down America’s Most Powerful Mobster, published last October by MacMillan.
Spearheading the investigation was Eunice Carter and through her efforts and ability to convince witnesses to attest to the fact that Luciano ran New York City’s brothels, was the proof needed to eventually sentenced the mob boss to 30 to 50 years in prison in 1936. In speaking about his grandmother, Stephen L. Carter states, “She was black and a woman and a lawyer, a graduate of Smith and the granddaughter of three slaves and one free woman of color, as dazzlingly unlikely a combination as one could image in New York of the 1930’s and without her work the Mafia boss would never have been convicted.”
An amazing woman and a role model for young girls today, Carter proclaimed in her own words, spoken at the International Council Women triennial conference in Greece years later, “Skill, talent, and ingenuity prevail in woman-kind as well as man-kind. A country or community which fails to allow its women to choose and develop their individual beings in an atmosphere of freedom thrusts away from itself a large part of the human resources which can give it strength and vitality.”
Elisa is co-founder of Travelin’ Cousinstravel blog, A native New Yorker, Fordham graduate, and world traveler, she is passionate about The Bronx as a travel destination for locals and tourists.
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