Albert Woodfox of the Angola Three Passes On
- 08/09/2022 by Bea Phi (Prison Radio)

We mourn the recent death of Albert Woodfox, a member of the Angola Three, who passed away on August 4, 2022.

“Who has not heard of the Angola Three?” asks Mumia Abu-Jamal. 
“Three young Black prisoners who were falsely accused of killing a prison guard in 1972, in the infamous Louisiana maximum-security prison sited at a former slave plantation and named for the place where the African captives came from: Angola.”  

Please listen to Mumia's commentary on Albert Woodfox by clicking the arrow above. The three prisoners Mumia referred to were Albert Woodfox, Herman Wallace, and their surviving co-defendant, Robert King Wilkerson. The reason they were set up and wrongfully accused of the killing of a guard: they were organizing inside as Panthers. What did they want? An end to sex trafficking auctions inside Angola State Penitentiary selling newly-arrived young men. 

Albert Woodfox was a Black Panther outside and inside Angola, a revolutionary who, due to the harsh circumstances of the world around him, spent every waking day fighting for his liberation and the liberation of others. He spent 43 years in solitary confinement, from 1972 to 2016, which is believed to be longer than anyone else in United States history.

When Prison Radio’s good friend Colonel Beauregard Bolt, known as “Bo,” was released from Angola after decades in prison, he brought the story of the buried Panthers with him to the Bay Area and beyond. He and others, such as Malik Rahim, Scott Fleming, and everyone who heard this story, began reaching back inside to bring these committed Panthers and revolutionaries home.

In the late 1990s, at the request of Scott Fleming, Prison Radio sent Live From Death Row (Mumia’s first book) inside Angola to Albert Woodfox, Herman Wallace, and Robert King Wilkerson. The fight to get the book into the prison drew attention and legal support to their plight. It was the beginning of a soon-to-be global effort, led by Marina Drummer of the Community Futures Collective. Tens of thousands of people organized for the freedom of the Angola Three, motivated in part by Amnesty International. Anita and Gordon Roddick of the Body Shop funded the defense committee. This story exposed American mass incarceration and the deep resistance of those who were in its grasp. 

In all his years in solitary confinement, Albert found many ways to persevere. He kept a log of all the things he wanted to do as soon as he was let out, he read books from revolutionaries past and present, and above all, he committed himself and his peers to the task of political education behind bars. “Everything solitary does to you, we managed to survive it,” Albert told The Guardian last year. “Not just to survive, but prosper as human beings. I wasn’t sure whether I would ever be physically free, but I knew that I could become mentally and emotionally free.”

Just six years ago, after fierce court battles, Albert Woodfox won his freedom. Nearing the age of 70, he finally had the opportunity to spend the rest of his years in the company of his loved ones, doing what he vowed to do upon his release: spending time with his daughter Brenda, her children, and grandchildren, seeing Yosemite National Park in California.

What did Albert see when he was let out of prison? He saw an America that was much different from – yet also very much the same as – the America that he had previously known on the outside. . It was an America that was still mired in rampant discrimination and profound injustice that led to his imprisonment.

But Albert also saw hope. He looked to the growing accomplishments of Black Lives Matter, a movement whose radical spirit reminded him so much of the Black Panther Party he always believed in. It was proof that the movement for Black freedom was still alive and well generations later. “I’m more optimistic than I’ve ever been,” Albert told The Guardian.

In 2019, three years after his release, Albert wrote a book called Solitary about his experiences, struggles, and perseverance. It was a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist, named the best book of the year by the New York Times, the Washington Post, NPR, and Publishers Weekly, among other accolades. Solitary is a powerful and noteworthy account.

In the wake of Albert’s passing, we must continue the fight for freedom and justice. Today and onward, as always, Prison Radio holds dear the teachings and the practices of Albert Woodfox and the Angola Three. Albert’s wisdom is a reminder that the fight ahead may be hard but it is necessary and worthwhile. We share our condolences with his loved ones, comrades, and all those who knew and cherished him.

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