Illustration by Ysabel Berger

A Story of Hope and Forgiveness

The United States has experienced turmoil, broken hearts and division among governmental and pandemic difficulties. Reflecting on the powerful influence of Martin Luther King Jr. can heal much of the division felt during 2020. As we move forward the story of community educator Anthony Ray Hinton may serve as an inspiring catalyst for 2021.    

UVU students, staff, families and the community enjoyed a truly exhilarating experience when keynote speaker Anthony Ray Hinton, an American activist and equal justice initiative community educator, was UVU’s keynote speaker at the 27th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration week.

Anthony Ray Hinton was born on June 1, 1965. He grew up in Praco, Alabama, outside of Birmingham.

In July of 1985, while living with his mother, he was arrested for the suspicion of first-degree robbery, first degree kidnapping and first-degree murder.

First approached by two white male detectives, Anthony was asked to place his hands behind his back. In dismay, Anthony was escorted to the county jail handcuffed. After questioning, the detectives explained they had a warrant for his arrest and cited five reasons he would be convicted.

“Number one, you are Black,” said the detective, according to Hinton’s speech. “Number two, a white man is going to say you shot him. Number three, you are going to have a white prosecutor. Number four, you are going to have a white judge. Number five, you are going to have an all-white jury.”

“Do you know what that spell(s)?” one of the detectives asked.

“Conviction, conviction, conviction, conviction, conviction.”

On Dec. 17, 1986 he was convicted for two counts of first-degree murder.  For the next 28 years, Hinton was on Alabama’s death row.

He explained his anger with God and the soul-shaking experiences he went through as an innocent man confined to a prison cell. His anger isolated him from others. It was not until he heard a fellow cellmate crying about the death of their mother, that he started to gain perspective. He realized his own mother was alive and that he, himself was alive. He had found joy despite the circumstances of his conviction.

After excessive research, legal procedures and hope, Anthony Ray Hinton walked out of the Jefferson County Jail for the first time in 30 years to a new life of freedom.

Hinton is the longest serving death row prisoner in Alabama history and among the longest serving condemned prisoners to be freed after presenting evidence of innocence. Since 1983, Mr. Hinton was the 152nd person removed from death row after suffering a guiltless charge.

Anthony’s story is one of forgiveness, mercy and hope. The emotion of his story can be felt as he shared his experience of personal transformation and courage.

As we see with the current events throughout the U.S., racial inequality has continued to exist. Hinton’s incredible story of equality has shown students and the community that we can rise above prejudices. 

Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream of one day living freely in America’s far-stretched lands. Hinton’s empowering take on life may just be the antidote needed to continue this dream of life and freedom.  Hinton describes more of his story in his book The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row and his YouTube video.

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