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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. 4 out of 5

    Jenna

    "I became living proof that we can survive the worst to change ourselves and our world, no matter where we are. Behind our resistance on the tiers, Herman, King, and I knew that only education would save us." For more than 40 years, Albert Woodfox was kept in solitary confinement in a 9 X 6 foot cell 23 hours a day. 40 YEARS! I don't think I could handle that for a week, let alone decades. And yet he endured this torture, day after day, year after year, for a crime he didn't commit. This book i "I became living proof that we can survive the worst to change ourselves and our world, no matter where we are. Behind our resistance on the tiers, Herman, King, and I knew that only education would save us." For more than 40 years, Albert Woodfox was kept in solitary confinement in a 9 X 6 foot cell 23 hours a day. 40 YEARS! I don't think I could handle that for a week, let alone decades. And yet he endured this torture, day after day, year after year, for a crime he didn't commit. This book is Mr. Woodfox's story. With brutal honesty, Albert Woodfox shares his unimaginable life. He grew up in Louisiana during the Jim Crow era, raised by a mother who was sometimes forced into prostitution in order to feed her young children. His childhood was not easy and by his teenage years, he had dropped out of school and started a gang. Mr. Woodfox shares with us how he would often steal in order to provide for himself and his family, ending up in and out of prison at a young age. He decided to change his life around when he joined the Black Panthers, which was considered a terrorist organization for no better reason than that the whites in power felt threatened whenever black people came together and demanded equal rights. Because of his association with the Black Panthers, Mr. Woodfox was framed, along with another member, Herman Wallace, for the murder of a guard. Even though the murder took place in different part of the prison, and even though there was not a shred of evidence (indeed, the bloody finger print found at the scene of the murder belonged to neither man), these men were convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Purportedly because they were a danger to other inmates and guards, they were kept in solitary confinement, though again, there was no evidence that they were a harm to anyone. It is absolutely horrendous the things Mr. Woodfox endured in prison. Angola, where he spent much of his time, was a prison notorious for its physical violence and rape. They were "prohibited from participating in educational, vocational, or other programs or from doing any hobby crafts, like leatherwork, beading, or painting". They did have some reading material and a television to watch, but still! The utter boredom of those days must have alone been enough to drive someone insane. He was allowed out of his cell for only an hour a day, and at another prison it was only for 15 minutes a day to shower. The rest of his time, he was confined to a space of 9 by 6 feet (2.7 by 1.8 meters). The atrocities he both endured and saw heaped upon others is the stuff of nightmares. There is a lot of repetition in this book.... but of course there would be, because his days were repetitive, day after day after day of the same thing. It becomes a bit tedious at times, but in a way, that just highlights the boredom Mr Woodfox endured for years. Albert Woodfox shares how it felt to spend his time behind closed doors, the feeling of claustrophobia that often came over him, the fear. I think most of us would be overcome with defeat and/or rage at the injustice, and yet Mr. Woodfox remained incredibly strong and didn't let himself become bitter. His conviction was eventually overturned, and it is evident that racism was behind the conviction. There was not a shred of truth or evidence, and the inmates who testified against Albert were paid to do so and given special privileges within prison. Their accounts of the murder all differed and they often contradicted themselves. And yet an all-white jury chose to believe them and sentence Mr. Woodfox and his fellow Black Panthers member to life in prison. Again, without a shred of evidence. Mr. Woodfox writes persuasively about the systematic racism that is to blame for locking up untold numbers of black men. In New Orleans in 2012, the Times-Picayune reported that 1 in 14 black men were behind bars, compared to 1 in 86 of the general population. 1 in 86 is still an egregious number of people, and yet it is the black population who suffers the most. Clearly something needs to be done about the atrocity of American prisons and the number of people spending their lives behind bars. America houses more prisoners than any other country in the world. That is due to both racism and to the profit being made off of prisoners. This is deplorable and unconscionable and barbaric. Prisons exist not to rehabilitate people, but to punish people whether or not they are guilty of a crime. They exist not to keep the general population safe from criminals, but to continue slavery. Our entire justice system is long overdue for a re-haul, and we need to start by ending for-profit prisons. As long as there is money to be made by incarcerating people, money will speak loudest. As long as there is a profit in locking people up, the black community in particular but also Latinx and poor whites will find themselves unfairly behind bars. We need reform, and we need it now. As Mr. Woodfox states, "We need to admit to, confront, and change the racism in the American justice system that decides who is stopped by police, who is arrested, who is searched, who is charged, who is prosecuted, and who isn’t, as well as look at who receives longer sentences and why and demand a fair and equal system." Thankfully Albert Woodfox is now a free man, but nothing can give him back all the decades he was locked away and tortured. Nothing can restore his health or the years stolen from him. I thank him for sharing his story; it could not have been easy for him to relive those years in order to write this book. His honesty and openness make this a compelling read. I highly recommend it.

  3. 4 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!

  4. 4 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?

  5. 4 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

  6. 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.

  7. 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

  8. 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.

  9. 5 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.

  10. 5 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.

  11. 5 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.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jo

    This book made me uncomfortable. Uncomfortable in the sense that people are still being treated differently because of the color of their skin. It seems so simple - we are all the same. Yet hate always seems to win. This book was disheartening, but hopeful. Mr. Woodfox clings to that hope. You can feel his hope reaching out and over the hate in the pages of this book. I would be honored to meet Mr. Woodfox one day. I would need to apologize. I would need to shake his hand.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Grant Tietjen

    An exhaustively comprehensive story (but worth every minute of reading time) of the tireless struggle to overcome incomprehensible injustices perpetuated by the racist Louisiana criminal justice system over the course of more than four decades. Never during the course of reading a story, have I been so simultaneously enraged and wearied by the magnitude of blatant racism and egregious miscarriages of justice perpetuated against African American men in the criminal justice system. This book shoul An exhaustively comprehensive story (but worth every minute of reading time) of the tireless struggle to overcome incomprehensible injustices perpetuated by the racist Louisiana criminal justice system over the course of more than four decades. Never during the course of reading a story, have I been so simultaneously enraged and wearied by the magnitude of blatant racism and egregious miscarriages of justice perpetuated against African American men in the criminal justice system. This book should be required reading for every sociology, criminal justice, and law student, and for all people concerned about true social equality.

  16. 4 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.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    Every American needs to read this book. My perspective and understanding is now deeper and broader. I’m still processing what I read so will have to edit this review later.

  18. 5 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.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Chet Taranowski

    Although the story is powerful and my admiration for the author is great, I found myself skimming parts of the book as the descriptions of the legal appeals went on endlessly. I found the story of his life before incarceration more interesting. Yet, there is no question that the author was quite a person to endure what he did.

  20. 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.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Arr

    They buried us. They didn't know we were seeds. Solitary is hands down one of the - if not the - most jaw-dropping work of non-fiction I have ever come across. It is one of a series of books I have recently chosen to read in an effort to educate myself on race relations, racial bias, and the criminal justice system. Previous books have included Long Walk to Freedom, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Between the World and Me and Bilal: Sur La Route Des Clandestins. The key to resistance is unity They buried us. They didn't know we were seeds. Solitary is hands down one of the - if not the - most jaw-dropping work of non-fiction I have ever come across. It is one of a series of books I have recently chosen to read in an effort to educate myself on race relations, racial bias, and the criminal justice system. Previous books have included Long Walk to Freedom, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Between the World and Me and Bilal: Sur La Route Des Clandestins. The key to resistance is unity While I would certainly recommend all of these books to anyone trying to better understand racial discrimination, I have found Solitary to be the book that most got under my skin and that best illustrated the injustices which people of colour experience disproportionately both in the US and around the world. I knew everybody's experience in society shaped who he was in prison. I reminded myself of that when men on my tier were hard to deal with. Being in solitary confinement constantly weighed on these men, too, and could make them wordse. I tried to deal with each man as an individual, in the present moment. You lean there are layers to people. You look for the good. This can set you up for disappointment. Once I did some legal paperwork for a prisoner that reduced his sentence to "time served." He was going to be released from prison because of the work I did for him. The day after he found out he came to the door of my cell and threw human waste at me. He was pissed off because I was watching the news and I wouldn't let him change the TV channel to a different program. You can't hold on to those experiences or you become bitter. Every day you start over. You look for the humanity in each individual. Solitary is a powerful read, to say the least, the unbelievable story of a man who refused to be broken by the punitive system's most obnoxious but also arbitrary punishments. It's a story of mental strength, resistance, the believe in a better future, hope, compassion, endurance, hard-earned, long lasting friendships, grace and wisdom, all of which are woven together into a narrative so powerful that I had to read the last 70 or so pages through a blur of tears. By age 40 I had learned that to be human is to grow, to create, to contribute, and that fear stops growth. Fear retards the process of growing. Fear causes confusion and uncertainty. Fear kills one's sense of self-worth. By eradicating fear on the tier, I learned that men can deal with each other better. They can get along. I wondered if in society, we could build a world in which we do not fear one another. What I really liked about this book and what I was hoping for, was how skilfully Woodfox allowed his personal account to merge with facts about the "prison-industrial complex" toward the end of the book, with a call to reform that could not be more relevant: We need to confront the realities of the prison-industrial complex. America has the largest prison population, per capita, int he world. Money is made off prisoners' backs. Prisoners are forced to ship in prison stores. They (or their families) are forced to pay astronomical fees to outside companies to make phone calls, and in some cases, forced to visit through video services, which also cost the prisoner money. In some prisons, inmates are forced to work full-time making products for multinaitonal corporations for almost no pay. The legal definition of "slavery" is "the state of one person being forced to work under the control of another." The U.S. prisons are contracted by a range of government entities and private corporations to make their products. In most prisons, wages are well below the poverty level. In some states prisoners aren't paid. (Woodfox also explains the "profit mechanisms" and quotas behind private prisons that are essentially run like businesses On one of the book's last pages Woodfox dishes out a call for the abolishment of capitalism that felt heavy handed in comparison to the more diplomatic tone of the rest of the book and honestly caught me by surprise. In light of how "market forces" and the profit motive play a significant role in the way private prisons are being run it is understandable for Woodfox to make this call, though it seems somewhat out of place, less thought through and well-honed in comparison to the rest of his work. I wouldn't criticize him for it though, because he has a valid point and does a great job in starting an absolutely necessary debate. There is so much to be said about this book, and admittedly it's quite difficult to do it justice here. All I can say is: read it! As a European I'm curious to learn whether conditions are equally bad in our countries and what needs to be done on this side of the Atlantic. Either way, Woodfox's book gives me hope and spirit to engage with social issues, especially in a time when it feels like a lot of people are being disheartened by what seems to be an exacerbation of issues wherever we look. Few things, I believe, are as worthy of anyone's time and effort, as the fate of the wrongfully convicted and living conditions of those that sit behind bars and whose voices aren't heard (to anyone interested in these particular topics I can also recommend the netflix documentary Making a Murderer. Albert, thank you for this beautiful book, your honest writing, your strength to survive this nightmare and to tell us about it. Thank you also for saving your most beautiful words for the last page: To those of you who are just entering the world of social struggle, welcome. To those of you who have spend years struggling for human rights and social justice: Don't give up. Look at me and see how the strength and determination of the human spirit defy all evil. For 44 years I defied the state of Louisiana and the Department of Corrections. Their main objective was to break my spirit. They did not break me. I have witnessed the horrors of man's cruelty to man. I did not lose my humanity. I bear the scars of beatings, loneliness, isolation, and persecution. I am also marked by every kindness.

  22. 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.

  23. 4 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]

  24. 5 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.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    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 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.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    I read this book on my Kobo e-reader. I think I learned about it while loading books onto my Kobo in fact. This is a detailed memoir written poast-release by Albert Woodfox, one of the Angola 3 prisoners held in solitary confinement in the USA for 40 years. The writing is very detailed, understandably as it spans 40 years documenting lots of injustices, both personal and witnessed, lots of processes to document and challenge those injustices, and lots of help by a wide range of people internation I read this book on my Kobo e-reader. I think I learned about it while loading books onto my Kobo in fact. This is a detailed memoir written poast-release by Albert Woodfox, one of the Angola 3 prisoners held in solitary confinement in the USA for 40 years. The writing is very detailed, understandably as it spans 40 years documenting lots of injustices, both personal and witnessed, lots of processes to document and challenge those injustices, and lots of help by a wide range of people internationally to seek justice. I hadn't heard of the Angola 3 before and initially I wasn't sure if references to Angola were to the country in Africa or to another place. Soon I came to know of the prison called Angola in Louisiana, USA. This memoir teaches the importance of solidarity, trust, community, acceptance and unconditional love fostered within the hardest of conditions. Woodfox bares his passion to right the wrongs of injustice which fuels his resilience and sense of dignity and rights under the harshest conditions and often within an environment of hate. The book exposes the wickedness those in power can and do allow themselves to sink to in harming others willfully and purposely. How they can sleep at night and face others is beyond me. In spite of the details of dates, laws, and names throughout the memoir I read on to celebrate Woodfox's release, which wasn't as pure as it should have been. I appreciate the honestly and integrity behind this book, a book about resilience clearly and articulately defined by Albert Woodfox from his direct experience and that of Herman Wallace and Robert King. Glad I read this book.

  27. 5 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.

  28. 5 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.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Roger Smitter

    Author Albert Woodfox is a person who was in solitary confinement for an unbelievable four decades for a killing he didn’t do. His book speaks to the issues we struggle with in our society: What is punishment? When punishment enough? When it should be over? How reliable is the justice system to ensure the person who did the crime is the person who gets the time. Most important, the author speaks to his 40+ years in prison in language that has little anger about what the justice system did to him Author Albert Woodfox is a person who was in solitary confinement for an unbelievable four decades for a killing he didn’t do. His book speaks to the issues we struggle with in our society: What is punishment? When punishment enough? When it should be over? How reliable is the justice system to ensure the person who did the crime is the person who gets the time. Most important, the author speaks to his 40+ years in prison in language that has little anger about what the justice system did to him. Woodbox opens four chapters about the details of his childhood and the events that landed him in jail. Then come 39 chapters to finish the story. His tone of the writing reflects his time in prison. Many sentences are simple statements of what happened. Everything is explained in detail. There’s little anger or emotion. There is no call at the end of the book for a revolution in the criminal system. He has a way of describing what happened to him in the legal system while at the same time makes us aware of what’s wrong with the system.

  30. 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.

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