Incarceration Nation

Albert Woodfox, Angola Three Warrior Passes

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

Who has not heard of the Angola Three, three young Black prisoners who were falsely accused of killing a prison guard in 1972, in the infamous Louisiana maximum-security prison sited as a former slave plantation, and named for the place where the African captives came from: Angola? On Thursday, August 4, 2022, attorneys for Albert Woodfox announced his passing at the age of 75.

For over 43 years, Woodfox and several other Black men were held in brutal solitary confinement, one of the longest-held solitary prisoners on Earth. Forty-three years, seven days a week, 23 hours a day. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture has stated that any time above 13 days constitutes torture and a violation of international law—13 days, 43 years.

How did Woodfox survive? He cites the teachings of the Black Panther Party; books by Frantz Fanon, Malcolm X, and Marcus Garvey; and lastly, the daily work they did for decades of calling down the tier to quiz guys on Black history, on math, and spelling bees. In an interview in The Guardian, Woodfox said, “Our cells were meant to be death chambers, but we turned them into schools, into debate halls.” By keeping their minds alive, they kept the beast of madness at bay.

After a bitter court fight, Woodfox was freed in 2016, and he returned to the remnants of his family. His daughter, Brenda, and her children and grandchildren, greeted his return. He wrote a book entitled Solitary and spoke at colleges around the world about his time in Angola.

In his last six years of freedom, he thought more and more of his mother, Ruby Mable Hamlin, who died while he was in Angola. He called her his true hero. She was, he said, “functionally illiterate.” But he added, “I never saw a look of defeat in her face no matter how hard things got. I grew into my mother’s wisdom. I carry it within me.” Albert Woodfox returns to his ancestors.

Note: Mumia through his attorneys have filed another appeal based upon evidence related to prosecutorial misconduct which has been further revealed over the last four years. The hearing will take place on October 19, 2022, in Philadelphia. Supporters of Mumia and other political prisoners will attend the hearing in this latest attempt to win the long-awaited freedom for this activist who is now 68 years old.