The Education of Sonny Carson

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The Education of Sonny Carson
Education of sonny carson.JPG
Original theatrical poster
Directed by Michael Campus
Produced by David Golden
Irwin Yablans
Written by Sonny Carson
Fred Hudson
Starring Rony Clanton
Don Gordon
Joyce Walker
Paul Benjamin
Mary Alice
Music by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson
Cinematography Edward R. Brown
Edited by Moe Howard
Edward Warschilka
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
July 17, 1974
Running time
104 minutes
Country USA
Language American English
Budget $1,000,000

The Education of Sonny Carson is a 1974 film based on the best-selling autobiography of Sonny Carson.


A young black teenager and three of his friends are in the process of breaking into a local market to steal food and money. Sonny is subdued by police and soon finds himself, at the age of thirteen, serving a "lenient" sentence of three months. While incarcerated, Sonny meets Willie, the leader of a local gang called "The Lords" and is initiated into the gang. Years later, an older Sonny, who is now heavily involved in gang activities, is part of the rivalry between The Lords and a fellow gang, "The Tomahawks", also known as the "Hawks". Sonny is deeply entrenched in the lifestyle of a "Lord", which includes frequent brawls with the Hawks. During one of these fights, one of Sonny's friends, a Lord named Lil' Boy, is fatally wounded by a stiletto. Sonny and the rest of the gang arrive at Lil' Boy's wake. As they are leaving, the other gang members notice Sonny, who is attempting to purchase a bouquet of flowers from a nearby shop. However, he is unable to afford it. Sonny then robs a white man, who is carrying a telegram with change of $100 in it. With the money, Sonny purchases the flowers and places them on Lil' Boy's casket. For his crime, Sonny is arrested and later brutalized by police during interrogation. He is sentenced to between one and three years in prison. While incarcerated, Sonny unexpectedly reunites with Willie, who teaches Sonny about the harsh realities of prison life. Sonny's father visits him in prison, letting Sonny know that he is still being supported by his family.

The brutality of the guards and the harshness of prison life quickly become evident to Sonny. In one instance, Willie is beaten, nearly to death, by the guards as Sonny watches. Willie tells Sonny that he could no longer endure such treatment. That night, Willie is forcibly dragged from his cell by the guards. They toss him over the railing, causing him to fall to his death. Sonny, who is deeply affected by his time in prison, serves out the remainder of his time and returns to his family. While trying to reestablish connections with his former gang members, Sonny learns that the drug trade has claimed the lives of many of his former friends. With a renewed purpose in life, Sonny fights the drug trade under a new alias, Iwina Lmiri Abubadika. The film ends in the 1970s, long before Abubadika's controversial involvement in New York City politics.[1]


The Education of Sonny Carson was produced on a budget of $1 million.[2] Director Michael Campus was therefore forced to improvise in order to save money, such as obscuring the layout of a room with darkness, allowing the same room to be used for multiple settings.[2] In order to film Sonny Carson's violent gang initiation, during which Sonny is beaten by gang members as he runs through them, the camera was placed in a metal cage and filmed from two separate points of view: one, in which Sonny is shown running through the gauntlet, and the other, which is shot from a first-person perspective.

The film explores challenges facing the African American population during their struggle to obtain civil rights, and sheds light on both political and social issues of the time such as poverty, drug abuse, and police discrimination and brutality.


The Wu-Tang Clan, Prodigy of Mobb Deep, AZ, Common, Ghostface Killah, Lauryn Hill, Roc Marciano, 2 Chainz and DJ Rob Swift have sampled dialogue from the film in their music.

Netflix's "The Get Down" uses the quote "What you doing on our turf punk?" In Episode 6.

Street gang movies of the 1970s


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