The Sun Does Shine | Anthony Ray Hinton

Summary of: The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row
By: Anthony Ray Hinton


Welcome to the riveting world of Anthony Ray Hinton, the author of ‘The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row.’ This compelling book tells the true story of Hinton, a Black man wrongly convicted and sent to death row. As you explore the profoundly moving journey of Hinton’s life, you will unravel the constant racism he faced while growing up in Alabama during the 1970s, his surreal experience entering the prison system, and his relentless struggle for freedom and justice. Amidst unimaginable circumstances, Hinton discovers the power of hope, forgiveness, and the human spirit. As you read on, prepare to be inspired by Hinton’s resilience and determination to regain his freedom and find life beyond the confines of death row.

Growing Up Black in 1970s Alabama

Hinton’s experience of racism and segregation in the 1970s in Alabama shaped his outlook on life.

The 1970s in Alabama marked a turning point in America’s fight against segregation, but racism still prevailed in Hinton’s daily life. Despite the abolition of the segregation laws, Black people still experienced discrimination, and the threat of violence loomed over their heads. Hinton’s mother advised him to be cautious and not talk to any white girls, keep his head down and get home fast when returning from school.

Hinton’s school life was also challenging, and he had to confront the deeply ingrained racism of his peers. He achieved a significant milestone in his school by scoring the highest points during a basketball match, but the joy he felt soon turned to shame when he realized that his opponents’ fans were chanting racial slurs, not his name.

In such a backdrop, Hinton’s mother raised him well. However, a young Hinton was not immune to his surroundings and ended up stealing a car. Hitchhiking in a primarily white neighborhood as a Black person was risky, and he needed to get around while looking for work and meeting women. Hinton drove the stolen car for two years before turning himself over to the police, unable to bear the guilt that overwhelmed him.

His time in jail was not easy, with poor quality food and a stinky cell. However, Hinton decided that prison was not for him and confessed his guilt to his mother, who had taught him to admit his mistakes. Looking back, Hinton identifies the experience as critical in shaping his outlook on life.

In essence, Hinton’s experience growing up in Alabama in the 1970s reflects the challenges and triumphs of the Black community as they fought for racial equality. Despite the difficulties he faced, Hinton remains positive about his upbringing and the values imparted to him by his mother. Today, he uses his experiences to inspire and educate others about the impact of systematic racism.

Falsely Accused

In “The Sun Does Shine,” Anthony Ray Hinton tells the story of his wrongful conviction for murder and the 30 years he spent on death row. Hinton was convicted based on faulty forensic evidence and racial bias. Despite a rock-solid alibi and passing a polygraph test, he was found guilty. Throughout his imprisonment, Hinton maintained his innocence and eventually gained the help of civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson, who helped secure his release in 2015. The book is a powerful account of perseverance in the face of injustice and the strength of hope and faith.

The Devastating Effects of Race and Money in the Legal System

Walter McMillian was a black man living in Monroeville, Alabama who was wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The court proceedings turned out to be heavily influenced by biased law enforcement officials, a corrupt justice system, and inadequate legal representation. The book delves into the myriad of issues Walter faced with an unwavering focus on his hopelessness and ultimately, the deleterious effects of racism and poverty on the legal system.

Life on Death Row

Anthony Ray Hinton’s harrowing experience on death row as an innocent man is recounted in painful detail, highlighting the inhumane conditions and tolls they took on his mental and emotional health.

Anthony Ray Hinton was thrown into a world of terror and pain when he was strip-searched, chained, and driven for three hours to Holman prison in 1986. His new home was a tiny cell with only a metal toilet, sink, bed, a shelf, and a King James Bible. His routine was determined by the prison’s schedule, starting with breakfast at 3 a.m., followed by lunch at 10 a.m., and ending with dinner at 2 p.m. He was always hungry and often served tasteless, inedible, and unrecognizable food. In such inhumane conditions, Hinton was being starved of sustenance and comfort.

His showers, scheduled every other day, offered no relief either. They were always ice-cold or boiling hot, always lasted two minutes, and always came with two guards watching. Going to the exercise yard for brief moments of freedom in an individual cage was the only reprieve from solitary confinement on death row.

The conditions on death row were terrible during the day, but they were unbearable during the night. Prisoners were often heard screaming, moaning, or crying, while rats and other creatures scurried around the floor. Most nerve-wracking of all was that noise could come from any cell at any time, and nobody knows what was happening for sure.

Hinton was incarcerated on death row despite knowing his innocence. He was hopeful of a successful appeal against his unfair sentence, but the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed his conviction in 1988. His harrowing experience lasted three years, and he was never quite the same. The psychological scars left an indelible impression on him, leading him to retreat into himself, barely speaking to anyone during that time.

Death Row Chronicles

The excruciating events in a prison’s death row, described by one of the inmates.

The summary is an excerpt from a book that describes in vivid detail the experience of being confined in a US prison’s death row. The author, Hinton, shares with readers what life was like in the cell block next to the execution chamber and how he witnessed other inmates being put to death.

Hinton narrates how the smell of death and burning flesh permeates the prison with almost no ventilation. When a convict is informed of their execution, they cry constantly, and the other inmates yell and scream as the guards perform their routine. The author shares the agony of listening to the cries of a condemned man named Michael Lindsey, whom he watched being led to the electric chair by the guards. When the day of Lindsey’s execution arrived, Hinton felt physically and emotionally sick.

The summary portrays a powerful image of life on death row and how inmates share a bond in their last moments. Hinton’s observations portray the inhumane treatment that prisoners were subjected to, and the hopelessness they felt after failed appeals for new trials. Hinton’s account gives readers a glimpse into the harsh realities of life on death row, a place from which very few return.

Forgiveness and Progress

Living on death row, Ray Hinton realizes that what unites inmates is stronger than what divides them. One of his fellow inmates, Henry Hays, had carried out the last lynching of a Black person in the US. Hinton confronts him and forgives him, offering him compassion and pity that Hays’ upbringing had not afforded him. Hays’ parents refuse to meet Hinton when Hays calls him over, but to Hinton, this interaction was about progress. Hinton learns that on death row, everybody, regardless of race or guilt, is struggling to come to terms with their situation. Hays was executed in 1997 for killing a Black man.

Want to read the full book summary?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed