Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down
America’s Most Powerful Mobster
by Stephen L. Carter
c.2018, Henry Holt
$30.00 / $39.00 Canada
By Terri Schlichenmeyer
The Truth Contributor
Here I am!
You raise your hand higher so you don’t go unnoticed. You
speak up, so you aren’t overlooked. It’s a natural human
need: pay attention, here I am, look this way, see me. For
some, it’s easy to get recognition; for others – as in the
new book Invisible by Stephen L. Carter –
years later, it still doesn’t arrive.
Eunice Hunton was eight years old when she told a little
playmate that she wanted to be a lawyer someday. That wasn’t
too far-fetched – both her parents were successful, educated
activists for “the darker nation” – but it was unlikely,
since just a handful of “Negroes” were lawyers in 1907, and
even fewer were women.
Her mother believed that raising a family was a woman’s
highest achievement but, as an adult, Eunice would have none
of that. She did her duty, marrying a Harlem dentist and
bearing a son, but when faced with the possibility of a
lifetime as a socialite, she couldn’t bear the thought.
Mindful of her childhood dream, she enrolled at Fordham Law
School in the fall of 1927.
“…Eunice,” says Carter, “found the law fascinating.”
From tailor-made suits to lawsuits was an amazing
“reinvention,” but not one without sacrifice, including an
eventual estrangement with her son and a strained marriage.
Still, for her, the hardship must’ve been worth it,
especially when, soon after graduation from law school and
becoming politically active, she was asked to be one of 20
lawyers (and the only woman) appointed to work with attorney
Thomas Dewey to end the hold that the Mob had on New York
For quite some time, New Yorkers had been complaining about
prostitution in their neighborhoods, and as the only woman
on-staff, it fell to Eunice to deal with those everyday
citizens. Says Carter, the menial job was probably meant to
discourage her but instead, she “mined the stacks of
citizen’s complaints… and she found gold” in the form of a
crooked line of corruption, pay-offs, and a Mobster who
quietly controlled it all. In the end, Eunice “knew she had
the makings of a case. The question was whether anyone would
That, of course, is not the end of this story; Eunice Hunton
Carter was a relatively young woman when she helped take
down mobster Lucky Luciano and she later went on to enjoy
brief fame for what amounted to a second career in politics.
Here, though, author Stephen L. Carter – who was Eunice’s
grandson – also recounts heartaches she endured, her
frustrations as an ambitious black woman in Jim Crow
America, and personal stories that show what made Eunice who
she was. What she accomplished was astounding, but it’s that
latter that makes this book lively and touchable, as though
we’ve been invited to sit at someone’s grand family table.
History is filled with legions of people who affected lives
but never got properly lauded for it. For one woman,
Invisible changes that and more, and if you’re looking
for a sink-your-teeth-in book, here it is.