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Solitary is the unforgettable life story of a man who served more than four decades in solitary confinement--in a 6-foot by 9-foot cell, 23 hours a day, in notorious Angola prison in Louisiana--all for a crime he did not commit. That Albert Woodfox survived was, in itself, a feat of extraordinary endurance against the violence and deprivation he faced daily. That he was ab Solitary is the unforgettable life story of a man who served more than four decades in solitary confinement--in a 6-foot by 9-foot cell, 23 hours a day, in notorious Angola prison in Louisiana--all for a crime he did not commit. That Albert Woodfox survived was, in itself, a feat of extraordinary endurance against the violence and deprivation he faced daily. That he was able to emerge whole from his odyssey within America's prison and judicial systems is a triumph of the human spirit, and makes his book a clarion call to reform the inhumanity of solitary confinement in the U.S. and around the world. Arrested often as a teenager in New Orleans, inspired behind bars in his early twenties to join the Black Panther Party because of its social commitment and code of living, Albert was serving a 50-year sentence in Angola for armed robbery when on April 17, 1972, a white guard was killed. Albert and another member of the Panthers were accused of the crime and immediately put in solitary confinement by the warden. Without a shred of actual evidence against them, their trial was a sham of justice that gave them life sentences in solitary. Decades passed before Albert gained a lawyer of consequence; even so, sixteen more years and multiple appeals were needed before he was finally released in February 2016. Remarkably self-aware that anger or bitterness would have destroyed him in solitary confinement, sustained by the shared solidarity of two fellow Panthers, Albert turned his anger into activism and resistance. The Angola 3, as they became known, resolved never to be broken by the grinding inhumanity and corruption that effectively held them for decades as political prisoners. He survived to give us Solitary, a chronicle of rare power and humanity that proves the better spirits of our nature can thrive against any odds.


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Solitary is the unforgettable life story of a man who served more than four decades in solitary confinement--in a 6-foot by 9-foot cell, 23 hours a day, in notorious Angola prison in Louisiana--all for a crime he did not commit. That Albert Woodfox survived was, in itself, a feat of extraordinary endurance against the violence and deprivation he faced daily. That he was ab Solitary is the unforgettable life story of a man who served more than four decades in solitary confinement--in a 6-foot by 9-foot cell, 23 hours a day, in notorious Angola prison in Louisiana--all for a crime he did not commit. That Albert Woodfox survived was, in itself, a feat of extraordinary endurance against the violence and deprivation he faced daily. That he was able to emerge whole from his odyssey within America's prison and judicial systems is a triumph of the human spirit, and makes his book a clarion call to reform the inhumanity of solitary confinement in the U.S. and around the world. Arrested often as a teenager in New Orleans, inspired behind bars in his early twenties to join the Black Panther Party because of its social commitment and code of living, Albert was serving a 50-year sentence in Angola for armed robbery when on April 17, 1972, a white guard was killed. Albert and another member of the Panthers were accused of the crime and immediately put in solitary confinement by the warden. Without a shred of actual evidence against them, their trial was a sham of justice that gave them life sentences in solitary. Decades passed before Albert gained a lawyer of consequence; even so, sixteen more years and multiple appeals were needed before he was finally released in February 2016. Remarkably self-aware that anger or bitterness would have destroyed him in solitary confinement, sustained by the shared solidarity of two fellow Panthers, Albert turned his anger into activism and resistance. The Angola 3, as they became known, resolved never to be broken by the grinding inhumanity and corruption that effectively held them for decades as political prisoners. He survived to give us Solitary, a chronicle of rare power and humanity that proves the better spirits of our nature can thrive against any odds.

30 review for Solitary

  1. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    Solitary by Albert Woodfox is a gruelling but rewarding work of non fiction. In and out of jail as a young black man in the late 60s, Woodfox had a troubled start to manhood. A start he isn’t proud of. His fractured family was poor and life in urban Louisiana was hard. Racism was endemic and unquestioned. When he finally ended up in the notorious Angola prison in 1969, on a very questionable charge of armed robbery, he was in for the long haul. He received a 50 year sentence. Albert Woodfox an ang Solitary by Albert Woodfox is a gruelling but rewarding work of non fiction. In and out of jail as a young black man in the late 60s, Woodfox had a troubled start to manhood. A start he isn’t proud of. His fractured family was poor and life in urban Louisiana was hard. Racism was endemic and unquestioned. When he finally ended up in the notorious Angola prison in 1969, on a very questionable charge of armed robbery, he was in for the long haul. He received a 50 year sentence. Albert Woodfox an angry but thoughtful man, had to deal with the nightmare reality of prison life. A world of solitary confinement, violent racist guards, powerful gangs, deprivation, bullying, rape and the sexual exploitation of young men and new inmates. A kafkaesque world of never ending darkness. Woodfox states he gained strength from the teachings of the Black Panthers. The principles of this controversial group became part of his lifelong philosophy ie the struggle for freedom, dignity, education, equality and justice. Whilst in prison, Woodfox and this small pressure group would help, advise and organise fellow prisoners ........ but were consequently seen by the prison authorities as trouble makers. With this as a back drop, a little way into Woodfox’s sentence, an incident occurred that would blight the rest of his life. Brent Miller, a guard was brutally murdered. Stabbed 32 times. Albert Woodfox and his close circle, who at the time were in another part of the building, were accused and eventually convicted of the crime. No real evidence was ever offered up and the prosecution witness statements were eventually discredited ie inmates were bribed, given privileges etc if they signed statements to say they had seen the crime committed. Robert King (falsely accused of an earlier murder), Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, later known as the Angola 3, became close friends and became their own support network. Decades plagued by frustration, deprivation and claustrophobia slowly drift by. Most of the time Woodfox was locked up in solitary confinement with one hour per day in the yard (if he was lucky). As he says at the opening of this book, the cell became his university, as he read and studied in a bid to transcend his surroundings. There were occasional glimmers of hope as appeals against his conviction and legal complaints about his treatment came and went. A tortuous trail of indictments, hearings, statutes, rulings, trials both criminal and civil, dragged on and on. The book is a gruelling read because it discusses in detail the minutiae of the legal wrangling but also because it distils the anger, disappointment and frustration of Woodfox’s years in captivity. Gradually however, the feelings of anger and despair are matched (never replaced) by feelings of hope. Eventually the cause of the Angola 3 was taken up by those on the outside - large groups of activists, legal teams, celebrities, human rights groups etc. Petitions were signed and the story hit the media ......... court procedures were renewed and real progress was made, not least the ruling that holding prisoners in solitary confinement is classed as torture. The fight by the Louisiana authorities to keep the Angola 3 in prison after all these years, as all evidence against them crumbled, was vindictive and bizarre. Robert King was released in 2001, Herman Wallace in 2015 (he dies a few days later of cancer) and Albert Woodfox finally got his freedom in 2016. He is to this day an advocate of prison reform and at 72 spends his time campaigning against injustice. After 42 years in solitary confinement he refused to be beaten or lose his humanity even though most of his life was taken from him. Obviously, as an autobiography, we only see Woodfox’s reality but I found Solitary to be a sobering, uncomfortable and searching read. Albert Woodfox is talking about his book at the 2019 Hay Literary festival and I’m looking forward to a moving and thought provoking event.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Moonkiszt

    Some books are written by authors who yearn for the title, the mantle and all the goodies that go with the title of Author. Some tomes are acts of persuasion, beckoning conversion from one point of view to another. Some volumes are slick and polished marketing or branding materials for products or lifestyles or team-building manuals. And then there are some books that simply spill out; spill out from the lives of humans who are desperate to tell their tale. This is one of those. It's uncomfortabl Some books are written by authors who yearn for the title, the mantle and all the goodies that go with the title of Author. Some tomes are acts of persuasion, beckoning conversion from one point of view to another. Some volumes are slick and polished marketing or branding materials for products or lifestyles or team-building manuals. And then there are some books that simply spill out; spill out from the lives of humans who are desperate to tell their tale. This is one of those. It's uncomfortable - at least it was to me. This is not a topic I think much about - on purpose. Parts of his story are like all of our collective beginnings - but then it takes these terrible swerves into consequential mazes. It goes on and on and on. . .but the mere mass of the many repeated choices that led to the same place . . . .made me tired, and I'll admit I skimmed over some of that - it was the same story - but it was a slow skim because I didn't want to miss key landmarks where learning was gained and committments made and changes attempted. Then the horror of getting stuck in a place where the bad guys are in charge and there is no recourse, no one to listen and accept uncomfortable truths. This book should be required reading for everyone who has to work within or with the prison system - the keepers and the kept. Laws need to be changed, and hearts and minds need to turn away from the carefully taught bigotries and prejudices we've all been taught are simply preferences. The story is complicated, looping back on itself, and reading it made me itchy like with a rash. Not only was I stunned at the story, I was appalled at my own Ignorance sitting there, almost a tangible presence, reading alongside me like a whole, astonished, head-shaking person. Denial wanted a seat, too, but we kept pushing her out - too much Truth filled the room. We had no idea. Heard about things like this but. . .hells bells. Not the best book, not the best author. But seriously one of the most important messages and tales to which we all need to pay attention. Miscarriage of justice is one thing, but the stubborn corruptions wrapped up in pious virtues need to be recognized, called out and rendered impotent. Brother Woodfox, Write On!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Calzean

    Yikes what an indictment of the US legal and prison system. This is a book on many of the things wrong with the Land of the Brave. It is not much of an endorsement. Woodfox's experiences in the aptly named prison Angola, Louisiana. It read like a war zone, ruled by despots with all the accompanying violence, rape, racism, corruptness and hopelessness. But Woodfox finds hope and strength in his adoption of Black Panther ideals of unity, helping others, strength in the face adversity. He spends al Yikes what an indictment of the US legal and prison system. This is a book on many of the things wrong with the Land of the Brave. It is not much of an endorsement. Woodfox's experiences in the aptly named prison Angola, Louisiana. It read like a war zone, ruled by despots with all the accompanying violence, rape, racism, corruptness and hopelessness. But Woodfox finds hope and strength in his adoption of Black Panther ideals of unity, helping others, strength in the face adversity. He spends almost 40 years in solitary confinement after being framed for the murder of a prison guard. The last part of the book, which is a bit detailed, covers the efforts to gain his (and his co-accused Herman Wallace) freedom. What a journey, what a wall of resistance, what drives the people who kept stone-walling?

  4. 5 out of 5

    Text Publishing

    ‘In beautifully poetic language that starkly contrasts the world he's describing, Woodfox awes and inspires. He illustrates the power of the human spirit, while illuminating the dire need for prison reform in the United States. Solitary is a brilliant blend of passion, terror and hope that everyone needs to experience.’ Shelf Awareness [starred review] ‘[A] profound book about friendship … told simply but not tersely…If the ending of this book does not leave you with tears pooling down in your cl ‘In beautifully poetic language that starkly contrasts the world he's describing, Woodfox awes and inspires. He illustrates the power of the human spirit, while illuminating the dire need for prison reform in the United States. Solitary is a brilliant blend of passion, terror and hope that everyone needs to experience.’ Shelf Awareness [starred review] ‘[A] profound book about friendship … told simply but not tersely…If the ending of this book does not leave you with tears pooling down in your clavicles, you are a stronger person than I am.’ New York Times ‘[A] book that is wrenching… Woodfox’s story makes [for] uncomfortable reading, which is as it should be. Solitary should make every reader writhe with shame and ask: What am I going to do to help change this?’ Washington Post

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    Our prison system is cruel and inhumane. This book is one of the best prison memoirs I've ever read (exempting Mandela and Assata). Woodfox's book is not just about his experiences, but it is about the system in general and how it tried to diminish his dignity. He reclaimed it by joining the Black Panthers and organizing his prison to fight rape and other degrading things that the guards allowed. This book made me really depressed that we do this to other humans.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    “Our resistance gave us an identity. Our identity gave us strength. Our strength gave us an unbreakable will.” -Albert Woodfox “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.” —Frederick Douglass “[If ] any white man in the world says ‘Give me liberty, or give me death,’ the entire world applauds. When a black man “Our resistance gave us an identity. Our identity gave us strength. Our strength gave us an unbreakable will.” -Albert Woodfox “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.” —Frederick Douglass “[If ] any white man in the world says ‘Give me liberty, or give me death,’ the entire world applauds. When a black man says exactly the same thing, word for word, he is judged a criminal and treated like one.” —James Baldwin He starts by telling of his youth and his mother and her wisdom and fortitude. A telling of survival in poverty under Jim Crow laws, being called names, despicable kind, the racist kind. Be prepared for the days of the unstoppable force that is Albert Woodfox presented before you in this narrative, if you did not know him then you surely will now with awe and respect, man of code, principle. and no s**t toleration, a raw and unfiltered narrative of an urban survivalist. His first jail sentence seems to be for two years for auto theft he had escaped the jail and brought back, he then landed in Angola at 18 he was set at doing two years at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, then overtime at aged 24 he was already through five years of being in and out of 4 different prisons, with one final terrible one, Angola, but this time in solitary for many years. He does no look for sympathy in this narrative this laying down of his struggle but he does draw empathy, he had certain choices in life and due to poverty, racism, and social economic divide took them. As he joined the Black Panther Party and started a chapter in the prison he became a threat to the status quo, in and out of prison. Slavery, poverty, bondage, unjust prison system, corruption, horrors, abuses, but also the power of unity, brotherhood, education, reading, courage, will and hope, all brought back to the readers consciousness again, stark and raw truths layered out one of the most important narratives to be released in 2019. Fighting against injustices, human and civil rights, making wrongs right, including ones of his self, a breaker of laws, metamorphosing into one of no more crimes, reestablished reborn with all the darkness, using his light and fortitude and what his mother instilled courage and leadership, never giving up and moving forward even if his life was in 6’ by 9’ in solitary. A terrible tragedy within these pages and tale of empowerment and not allowing the prison to shape him, an inspiring struggle, this is a journey a portrait of a young to older man in incarceration and despite it all, compassion remains, courage and a fortified human being with unbreakable will. Read my review with excerpts @ More2Read

  7. 4 out of 5

    Brian Wraight

    Please just read it. Woodfox isn’t the first person to suffer at the hands of America’s broken criminal justice system and, as long as the prison industrial complex and systemic racism continue to chug along and get away with it, he most certainly won’t be the last. Yes, he’s one of many. Yes, it’s a story that we’ve heard before. And that’s exactly why his story is important and needs to be told.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Donna Lewis

    This is an incredible book. Albert Woodfox grew up in a poor section of New Orleans. In the 50s and 60s, he was a petty criminal. Arrested as a teenager, he spent time in four different prisons before being exposed to the Black Panthers, who taught him that “you don’t fight fire with fire, you fight fire with water.” He learned how to not give in to fear. Along with two other Angola inmates (Herman and King) he focused on passive resistance and using education to save themselves. Because of thei This is an incredible book. Albert Woodfox grew up in a poor section of New Orleans. In the 50s and 60s, he was a petty criminal. Arrested as a teenager, he spent time in four different prisons before being exposed to the Black Panthers, who taught him that “you don’t fight fire with fire, you fight fire with water.” He learned how to not give in to fear. Along with two other Angola inmates (Herman and King) he focused on passive resistance and using education to save themselves. Because of their efforts as mentors, leaders and teachers, they were able to make changes in the treatment of prisoners, however, they were continually placed in solitary, with unimaginable torture, including being locked in tiny, rat and bug-infested cells for 23 hours a day. They were railroaded for the murder of a prison guard, leading to life sentences — without evidence or fair trials. They fought against “cruel and unusual” punishment for years, gaining the support of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Innocence Project, and other worldwide organizations. Yet, the Louisiana court system continued to punish them for their involvement with a terrorist organization, the Black Panthers, even though the Panthers were not really a functioning organization in the 80s and 90s. After some 40 years in solitary, the three of them aged and developed serious health issues. And they were still accused of trumped up infractions leading to harsher and harsher conditions. “In 2016, according to the NAACP, African Americans were incarcerated at more than five times the rate of whites...Racism isn’t as blatant as it was 44 years ago, but it is still here...”. Anyone even slightly interested in prison reform, should read this book, and should get angry and demand changes to what amounts to legalized slavery in our prisons. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, “139 wrongfully convicted people were exonerated and released from prison in 2017.” It is amazing to me that this incredibly well-spoken man has been able to write this powerful book without the anger that would have consumed most people in this situation. He has earned my respect and support.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Niklas Pivic

    When Albert Woodfox was incarcerated and sentenced to quite a stretch in jail, he didn't know what to think, really; he was a teenager who'd got muddled up in basic criminal teenage stuff. One of Woodfox's great strengths is his ability to express himself straightforwardly, without mucking up a line. As here: The first time I was called a nigger by a white person I was around 12. I was waiting with dozens of other kids at the end of the Mardi Gras parade behind the Municipal Auditorium where the p When Albert Woodfox was incarcerated and sentenced to quite a stretch in jail, he didn't know what to think, really; he was a teenager who'd got muddled up in basic criminal teenage stuff. One of Woodfox's great strengths is his ability to express himself straightforwardly, without mucking up a line. As here: The first time I was called a nigger by a white person I was around 12. I was waiting with dozens of other kids at the end of the Mardi Gras parade behind the Municipal Auditorium where the people on the floats, who were all white in those days, gave away whatever beads and trinkets they had left. On one of the floats the man tossing the trinkets was holding a real beautiful strand of pearl-colored beads. I thought they’d make a nice gift for my mom on her birthday. I called out to him, “Hey mister, hey mister,” and reached out my hand. He pointed to me as he held the beads above his head and tossed them toward me. As the beads came close to me I reached up and a white girl standing next to me put her hand up and caught them at the same time I did. I didn’t let go. I gestured to the man on the float and told her, “Hey, he was throwing the beads to me.” I told her I wanted to give them to my mom. She looked at the man on the float who was still pointing at me, then she ripped the beads apart and called me nigger. The pain I felt from that young white girl calling me nigger will be with me forever. Also: At night, we stood under a streetlight on the corner of Dumaine and Robertson and talked shit for hours, boasting about things we never did, describing girls we never knew. It's a fair shake to a man who can describe aeons of time in a single line. I cannot even get into the innards of what happened to Woodfox, but he does a great job at showing what went down in Angola, a big American jail, where he went in the 1960s: If you were raped at Angola, or what was called “turned out,” your life in prison was virtually over. You became a “gal-boy,” a possession of your rapist. You’d be sold, pimped, used, and abused by your rapist and even some guards. Your only way out was to kill yourself or kill your rapist. If you killed your rapist you’d be free of human bondage within the confines of the prison forever, but in exchange, you’d most likely be convicted of murder, so you’d have to spend the rest of your life at Angola. Some orderlies, inmate guards, and freeman who worked at RC sold the names of young and weak new arrivals to sexual predators in the prison population. I had to be much more confident than I felt to keep guys from trying stupid shit with me. I couldn’t look weak. I couldn’t show any fear. So I faked it. Luckily, I had a reputation as a fighter who never gave up. There were prisoners at Angola I had known on the street and who knew me or knew of me. Word spreads quickly in prison. Dudes gossiped and talked. Word was if you whip my ass today you have to whip it again tomorrow. You have to beat me every day for the rest of your life if necessary. That helped me a lot. Just those two paragraphs put the fear of Bog in me. This is quite the book to go well together with Shane Bauer's excellent exposé of the privately-owned prisons in the USA; that book is named "American Prison". One of the greatest hardships for me the first few months I was at Angola was getting used to the sameness of every day. The hardest job I ever had in my life was cutting sugarcane, Angola’s main crop. Cutting cane was so brutal that prisoners would pay somebody to break their hands, legs, or ankles, or they would cut themselves during cane season, to get out of doing it. There were old-timers at Angola who made good money breaking prisoners’ bones so men could get out of work. And that's just the start. Woodfox's political being starts becoming awakened due to meeting persons who taught him of The Black Panthers, and what they wanted to teach (and learn). This changed matters inside: We practiced martial arts together on the tier. We read aloud. We held math classes, spelling classes. We talked about what was going on in the world. Every Friday we passed out a spelling or math test. We encouraged debates and conversation. We told each man he had a say. “Stand up for yourself,” we told them, “for your own self-esteem, for your own dignity.” Even the roughest, most hardened person usually responds when you see the dignity and humanity in him and ask him to see it for himself. “The guards will retaliate,” we said, “but we will always face that together.” Where the book goes slightly not-good, is where Woodfox goes deeply into his own case; while I see how the details are important to him, I personally feel the book should have been edited tighter; my mind had a hard time staying focused on all of the minutiae, the majority of which I will not be taking with me to my grave. In a larger context, sure, I can see how that all pans out by showing how the government/state/prison/DAs wanted to grind Woodfox down to stop appealing for justice. Woodfox is really paying back to reading, what reading did for him: Reading was a bright spot for me. Reading was my salvation. Libraries and universities and schools from all over Louisiana donated books to Angola and for once, the willful ignorance of the prison administration paid off for us, because there were a lot of radical books in the prison library: Books we wouldn’t have been allowed to get through the mail. Books we never could have afforded to buy. Books we had never heard of. Herman, King, and I first gravitated to books and authors that dealt with politics and race—George Jackson, Frantz Fanon, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Steve Biko, Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice, J. A. Rogers’s From ‘Superman’ to Man. We read anything we could find on slavery, communism, socialism, Marxism, anti-imperialism, the African independence movements, and independence movements from around the world. There's so much good in this book. I hope it gets spread everywhere.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    Some books we read to bear witness; to acknowledge the pain and suffering our country causes her own citizens to bear. Albert Woodcox was sent to prison, once there his life became a living hell. Accused of a crime there that he did not commit, he was held in solitary confinement for decades. Decades. This book explains his experience and the struggle for his release. Prison reform is but the tip of the iceberg in the change needed to rectify what happened to him. This book is important to read. Some books we read to bear witness; to acknowledge the pain and suffering our country causes her own citizens to bear. Albert Woodcox was sent to prison, once there his life became a living hell. Accused of a crime there that he did not commit, he was held in solitary confinement for decades. Decades. This book explains his experience and the struggle for his release. Prison reform is but the tip of the iceberg in the change needed to rectify what happened to him. This book is important to read. I received my copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Luna

    This is the story of the Angola 3, who spent decades in solitary confinement in a slave plantation-turned-prison in Louisiana. Beneath the word SOLITARY, I see the word SOLIDARITY. Solidarity between the three men who were moved by the black panther party in the late sixties to change their lives and the lives of those around them. Solidarity in the struggle for survival and human rights against all odds, solidarity between these prisoners and their supporters on the outside who number in the hu This is the story of the Angola 3, who spent decades in solitary confinement in a slave plantation-turned-prison in Louisiana. Beneath the word SOLITARY, I see the word SOLIDARITY. Solidarity between the three men who were moved by the black panther party in the late sixties to change their lives and the lives of those around them. Solidarity in the struggle for survival and human rights against all odds, solidarity between these prisoners and their supporters on the outside who number in the hundreds of thousands. This is companion reading to Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow or Patrisse Khan-Cullors's When They Call You a Terrorist or any number of expository works about our American injustice machine and the lives it destroys. There is no excuse for not knowing that the penal system doesn't rehabilitate people, and that justice is an actual impossibility in our justice system.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Karen Ashmore

    A very hard to read book. It starts out with his life in crime as a petty thief, then druggie, then armed robbery. Then went on to describe the injustices of the criminal justice and prison system. And the horrors of Angola, the worst prison in the US, located in the backwards state of Louisiana. All very hard to read. It is amazing that he was able to keep his head up and become a crusader for criminal justice reform.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Meg Marie

    Proof that slavery is alive and well in modern day America, and how unjust the system can be. I found this unbelievably sad and moving.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kerisa Coleman

    From the moment I picked up this book to this very moment, I was enthralled by the harsh realities of the U.S. criminal justice system, both past and current. Albert Woodfox adopted many principles of manhood and how he managed to hold onto his values, beliefs and convictions all those many years is something I can’t even fathom. Prison reform is a must. Having worked in the federal prison system for a number of years, I’m privy to the maltreatment of the incarcerated. We all are deserving of co From the moment I picked up this book to this very moment, I was enthralled by the harsh realities of the U.S. criminal justice system, both past and current. Albert Woodfox adopted many principles of manhood and how he managed to hold onto his values, beliefs and convictions all those many years is something I can’t even fathom. Prison reform is a must. Having worked in the federal prison system for a number of years, I’m privy to the maltreatment of the incarcerated. We all are deserving of compassion and kindness - for this is the core tenet of God’s love for us all.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Marika

    Albert Woodfox, holds the record for being the held in solitary confinement prisoner in the US. 43 years. Let that sink in. To stay sane, he made a vow with 2 other prisoners, who became known as the Angola Three, that they would remain strong and grow as men despite the obvious injustice and torture. Author Albert Woodfox has done the remarkable. It's almost as if he is sitting next to you on a park bench relating his story in a calm, measured way. It's the only palatable way to read a story su Albert Woodfox, holds the record for being the held in solitary confinement prisoner in the US. 43 years. Let that sink in. To stay sane, he made a vow with 2 other prisoners, who became known as the Angola Three, that they would remain strong and grow as men despite the obvious injustice and torture. Author Albert Woodfox has done the remarkable. It's almost as if he is sitting next to you on a park bench relating his story in a calm, measured way. It's the only palatable way to read a story such as this. A remarkable story about a strong man who wouldn't be broken, no matter what. *I read an advance copy and was not compensated.

  16. 5 out of 5

    David

    An important book with great significance for our times. It should be on everyone's 'must read' list. You should be aware, however, it will not entertain. It will enlighten, enrage and enrich.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Florine

    Amazing memoir! I've still have tears rolling down my face. I am in awe of this man's mental strength and integrity, despite all the violence, humiliation and loss he faced over the years. Yes, he committed crimes that sent him to jail in the first place, but then COINTELPRO took care of him, framed him and tried to break him. I'm more enraged and disgusted by the judicial system than ever. In addition to the deplorable and inhumane conditions of living of prisoners, the institutionalized racism, Amazing memoir! I've still have tears rolling down my face. I am in awe of this man's mental strength and integrity, despite all the violence, humiliation and loss he faced over the years. Yes, he committed crimes that sent him to jail in the first place, but then COINTELPRO took care of him, framed him and tried to break him. I'm more enraged and disgusted by the judicial system than ever. In addition to the deplorable and inhumane conditions of living of prisoners, the institutionalized racism, and blatant bias of the wardens, officers, judges, courts are shameful and appalling. The exception clause of the 13th amendment needs to be looked at, the 8th needs to be applied. Some quotes - That’s when I learned that courage doesn’t mean you aren’t afraid. Courage means you master that fear and act in spite of being afraid. They wanted prisoners who had no spirit. They wanted prisoners to fear one another and abuse one another; it made them easier to control. The dungeon could destroy every fragment of a man’s dignity and self-respect. The harsh conditions were so hurtful that strong men would cry. They broke. In the human herd survival of the fittest is all there is. You become instinctive, not intellectual. Therein lies the secret to the master’s control. Without knowing black history, we knew nothing about ourselves. The sight of black men legally carrying guns was so terrifying to the establishment that even the National Rifle Association (NRA) supported a measure to repeal the California gun law that allowed the public to openly carry loaded firearms. A raised fist was for unity between Panthers, unity within black communities, and unity with anyone waging the same struggles for the people, for empowerment and equality and justice. We lived in a world where a black person who stood up for other blacks could go to jail. The need to be treated with human dignity touches everyone. And the key to resistance is unity. But instead, we did not allow prison to shape us. We defined ourselves. I now realize that knowledge can be the key for that what sometimes seem impossible in life. There is no oversight of prosecutorial conduct in this country, even though reckless and irresponsible actions by prosecutors, who are out not for justice or truth but only for their own careers and to win, have enormous lifelong consequences on people’s lives that can never be undone. My experience in a six-by-nine-foot cell for 29 years in solitary confinement taught me the difference between legality and morality. It made me realize that despite the fact that the 13th Amendment allegedly abolished slavery, slavery was never abolished. I learned that a person could be actually innocent of a crime but convicted legally, and that this person would be designated a legal slave—as it was in 1864 where the Constitution decreed that if you were black being a slave was your lot. Modern-day slavery is alive and well in America but it has taken on a different form—from the plantation to the prison… [King]

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kimberlee (reading.wanderwoman)

    "After years in prison in solitary confinement, I experienced all the emotions the Louisiana department of Public Safety and Corrections wanted from me - anger, bitterness, the thirst to see someone suffer the way I was suffering, the revenge factor, all that. But I also became something they didn't want or expect - self-educated. I could lose myself in a book. Reading was a bright spot for me. Reading was my salvation." "The need to be treated with human dignity touches everyone. And the key t "After years in prison in solitary confinement, I experienced all the emotions the Louisiana department of Public Safety and Corrections wanted from me - anger, bitterness, the thirst to see someone suffer the way I was suffering, the revenge factor, all that. But I also became something they didn't want or expect - self-educated. I could lose myself in a book. Reading was a bright spot for me. Reading was my salvation." "The need to be treated with human dignity touches everyone. And the key to resistance is unity." "Even with the constant noise and when the pain of not being able to leave my cell with two much to bear. (I cried. I cried a lot of times after the tear was locked down so no one could see.) Even with the fear that one day I would go insane like so many others I'd witnessed. I saw life as constantly changing and I allowed myself to change." "Through Mr. Woodfox I was reminded that a man who chooses not to seek knowledge is the same as a boy who choose not to become a man. I now realize that knowledge can be the key for that what sometimes seem impossible in life." (Unknown prisoner who was next to Albert in his cell) These small snippets show the hopeful side of this book. I have not shared the pieces that talk about how severely these men were beaten and gassed and not allowed hospital visits or medical help when sick or how they were wrongly accused and written up when finally allowed medical help. Or how they were ignored and neglected and abused on every single possible level. Physical, mental, emotional etc etc. A combination of so many emotions, and feelings. Here are a few....Devastating. Baffling. Eye-opening. Powerful. Disgusting. Shocking. Disappointing. Appalling. Nauseating. Infuriating. Moving. Hope. Strength. Motivational. Inspirational. Resilient. It's hard to put into words how important this book is. Everyone NEEDS to read it. This is not a recommendation, it is a necessity. Period. This book deserves far more than a review, it deserves action.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    In 2016, I had the privilege to meet and have lunch with Albert Woodfox and Robert King at the International Conference on the Prolonged Use of Solitary Confinement at University of Pittsburgh Law School. It had only been a few months since Mr Woodfox had been released from 44 years of solitary, more than any other human being in the history of the world. He was obviously stunned by his newly won freedom after so much extreme confinement, but his passion for justice, his humility and his strengt In 2016, I had the privilege to meet and have lunch with Albert Woodfox and Robert King at the International Conference on the Prolonged Use of Solitary Confinement at University of Pittsburgh Law School. It had only been a few months since Mr Woodfox had been released from 44 years of solitary, more than any other human being in the history of the world. He was obviously stunned by his newly won freedom after so much extreme confinement, but his passion for justice, his humility and his strength of character were also evident. In reading this book, I learned just how strong and determined these men actually are. Reading this book is a challenge. It is a dark tale of some of the most inhumane cruelty you will ever encounter. It is also a story about hope and determination and solidarity and success in the face of a seemingly all powerful and corrupt system. The USA incarcerates more people than anywhere else on earth. Solitary confinement is torture and yet it is considered standard operating procedure throughout the country. Often our prison administrators and staff punish the best prisoners brutally because they decry injustices. They reward the corrupt prisoners and give them parole. In such a hellish world, how can one keep one's integrity and will to live, Albert Woodfox shows us how. Today Albert Woodfox is free and traveling the world speaking out against the evils of solitary confinement. He is living proof of how evil our system is. For 44 years they said he was too dangerous to release. He has proven them wrong. They are the dangerous ones. This humble, brilliant, compassionate, gentle man has demonstrated superhuman strength, both physical and mental, to get where he is today. But he didn't get there alone. It took help from a whole network of activists and lawyers on the outside supporting the Angola 3 to get them out. Mr Woodfox expresses his heartfelt gratitude for all the sacrifices that were made to win his freedom. But there are hundreds of thousands still locked up in solitary. Far too many of us don't care. Working class people of all races need to wake up and realize that that could be any of us in there some day. The battle against mass incarceration is far from over. The problem could get much, much worse. The plans have already been laid. Please read this book. Resist.

  20. 4 out of 5

    John K

    Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela, Albert Woodfox... The fact that conditions like this exist in America should give all of us reason to pause. 35 years ago I read Malcolm's book and today after reading Albert's book I am back to where I was 35 years ago. In 2019 we are still wrestling with the fear of the other. There is nothing else to say. It is hard to stand up and be proud of this as an American. I am proud of what we can become, regardless of how difficult it may be but America and our flag does n Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela, Albert Woodfox... The fact that conditions like this exist in America should give all of us reason to pause. 35 years ago I read Malcolm's book and today after reading Albert's book I am back to where I was 35 years ago. In 2019 we are still wrestling with the fear of the other. There is nothing else to say. It is hard to stand up and be proud of this as an American. I am proud of what we can become, regardless of how difficult it may be but America and our flag does not belong to those who hide behind it to shield their racism. However, it becomes OUR racism when we sit by and let people wave flags in defense of their ignorance and hatred. Our country and our flag belong to Albert, we owe him more than can be repaid in his lifetime. His experience and his personal resolve made him into the man he is, conditions of racism and oppression made him who he was. This book is a sad portrayal of the worst of mankind and also a testament to the best of it in that Albert's strength is a lesson for all of us.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Erok

    This book will destroy you, inspire you, privilege check you, make you cry, and both give you hope as well as dread for humanity. The amount Woodfox endured during his 40ish years of solitary is hard to comprehend. The book starts out like a candle, but slowly builds into an inferno as you get deeper into both his case and his life in solitary. On top of that it shows the effectiveness, if that’s the right word, for public campaigns for justice and what that can do for a prisoner’s case. I do he This book will destroy you, inspire you, privilege check you, make you cry, and both give you hope as well as dread for humanity. The amount Woodfox endured during his 40ish years of solitary is hard to comprehend. The book starts out like a candle, but slowly builds into an inferno as you get deeper into both his case and his life in solitary. On top of that it shows the effectiveness, if that’s the right word, for public campaigns for justice and what that can do for a prisoner’s case. I do hesitate to use the word effective, because it took decades for the outcome, but he’d still be in solitary were it not for dedicated and smart activists and lawyers who built momentum and called out the tactics of the state’s machine who did everything in their power to stack the deck against him.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jennie Wellman

    Sometimes I'm nervous to read books about social justice issues. Sometimes, maybe too often, books on social justice issues end with a bootstraps narrative. I understand why- it's more palatable to audiences. But Woodfox doesn't provide a bootstraps narrative in this book. Woodfox uses personal experience, philosophy, social science, and analysis to look at the ideology and hegemony that allows for atrocities like what happened to the Angola Four to take place. Woodfox takes on every aspect of p Sometimes I'm nervous to read books about social justice issues. Sometimes, maybe too often, books on social justice issues end with a bootstraps narrative. I understand why- it's more palatable to audiences. But Woodfox doesn't provide a bootstraps narrative in this book. Woodfox uses personal experience, philosophy, social science, and analysis to look at the ideology and hegemony that allows for atrocities like what happened to the Angola Four to take place. Woodfox takes on every aspect of prison and policing, and politicians to unearth and shine a light on answering the question of, "How can these things be?" And he doesn't hold back on showing his warts to the audience and what put him in prison.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Miller

    This is a gut-wrenching book. Albert Woodfox was incarcerated for 44 years and finally released in 2016. His early years are hard to read about because of his criminality but also because of his environment. The brutality of police and jail officials, the lack of ethics and integrity in the judiciary were appalling even before he got to Angola. What he and many others experienced there is beyond belief. We citizens are all culpable. We elect judges and prosecutors, and we never hold them account This is a gut-wrenching book. Albert Woodfox was incarcerated for 44 years and finally released in 2016. His early years are hard to read about because of his criminality but also because of his environment. The brutality of police and jail officials, the lack of ethics and integrity in the judiciary were appalling even before he got to Angola. What he and many others experienced there is beyond belief. We citizens are all culpable. We elect judges and prosecutors, and we never hold them accountable. We turn a blind eye because it’s unsettling and “not really an issue for me.” The dehumanization if anyone in our country rebounds onto us, affects us all. Read this book and think.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gail

    I spent the first bit of this book wondering when I would start feeling empathy for his plight- he speaks so plainly and matter of factly about his (many) crimes, I didn’t think that jail would be an inappropriate consequence. But I only had to wait a bit, and the horrors of the injustices brought upon him (decades in solitary, clearly the victim of vendettas by wardens, etc) become inescapable. I admire his strength of spirit and am glad he survived to tell his story, but the overall effect of I spent the first bit of this book wondering when I would start feeling empathy for his plight- he speaks so plainly and matter of factly about his (many) crimes, I didn’t think that jail would be an inappropriate consequence. But I only had to wait a bit, and the horrors of the injustices brought upon him (decades in solitary, clearly the victim of vendettas by wardens, etc) become inescapable. I admire his strength of spirit and am glad he survived to tell his story, but the overall effect of the book is depressing, esp in light of the response to the BLM movement and the current president.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Franc Woods

    Heart wrenching story of Albert Woodfox and the Angola 3. How he survived the horror of 40+ years of solitary confinement is beyond belief. How a government that is part of this country could be so callous in its vengeful actions towards these men is unbelievable. My only criticism of this book came in epilog. Alberts one sided view, although understandable, is biased (black lives matter). All lives matter... black, white, yellow, brown, blue, poor, and not. We need to change and work together t Heart wrenching story of Albert Woodfox and the Angola 3. How he survived the horror of 40+ years of solitary confinement is beyond belief. How a government that is part of this country could be so callous in its vengeful actions towards these men is unbelievable. My only criticism of this book came in epilog. Alberts one sided view, although understandable, is biased (black lives matter). All lives matter... black, white, yellow, brown, blue, poor, and not. We need to change and work together to change.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Slappy

    Wow. This is a book that will stay with you for a long time. 40 years in solitary confinement for a crime he didn't commit. A searing indictment of the systemic racism in the US justice system and the private prison complex. Woodfox names names: People like Anne Butler, who freely writes books which are reviewed on Goodreads, and openly lives in Louisiana, people like Buddy Caldwell, Bobby Jindal, all openly conspired to imprison and torture the Angola 3 even though they knew they were not guilt Wow. This is a book that will stay with you for a long time. 40 years in solitary confinement for a crime he didn't commit. A searing indictment of the systemic racism in the US justice system and the private prison complex. Woodfox names names: People like Anne Butler, who freely writes books which are reviewed on Goodreads, and openly lives in Louisiana, people like Buddy Caldwell, Bobby Jindal, all openly conspired to imprison and torture the Angola 3 even though they knew they were not guilty. These are the people who should be imprisoned.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sue Wakula

    A giant in chains shares how to hold on to your humanity when living in an absolutely inhumane world. His world was small, notorious Angola prison in Louisiana. Mr. Woodfox shows in graphic detail the greed of the prison-industrial complex and the dangers to everyone, but especially minorities, of for-profit prisons. Choose a side. Is the goal of prison rehabilitation or do you believe that torture and cruelty is the best way to enforce the American way of life?

  28. 4 out of 5

    Corinna

    This was a difficult book to read. He spends a lot of time describing the circumstances of his incarceration and the politics of Angola, which were fascinating. He spends very little time discussing the impact of this on him emotionally and psychologically , which is understandable, but made the normally personal form of the autobiography to feel less personal. Still, any way you slice it, this is a powerful read on the prison system, from the 60’s up to the present.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Amena Ahmad

    A captivating and enraging read about the story of a man who faced gross injustice and prejudice within the disgusting and corrupt prison system of America. If this book doesn't leave you angered and weeping and wanting to fight against the corrupt prison system and criminal "justice" system I'm not sure what will. It's a must read, a hard one, but a story about a beautiful resilient man whom we can all learn something from.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Tolley

    Albert Woodfox spent decades in Angola prison, in solitary confinement for a crime he did not commit. After coming to prison for armed robbery (for which he was guilty), he adopted the beliefs of the Black Panthers and Angola's administration separated him and two other prisoners from the general population, and basically tortured them for 30+ years. Very depressing to read about his experiences. His resilience is something else. What a brave man. This was so eye-opening on several levels with h Albert Woodfox spent decades in Angola prison, in solitary confinement for a crime he did not commit. After coming to prison for armed robbery (for which he was guilty), he adopted the beliefs of the Black Panthers and Angola's administration separated him and two other prisoners from the general population, and basically tortured them for 30+ years. Very depressing to read about his experiences. His resilience is something else. What a brave man. This was so eye-opening on several levels with how corrupt the criminal justice system is and how long exoneration takes--decades. How prison's violate prisoner's rights with impunity is truly awful. There were odious sections where Woodfox recounted the state's lack of evidence against him. I enjoyed reading about his experiences, beliefs, and interior state.

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