Solitary Unbroken by four decades in solitary confinement : my story of transformation and hope

Albert Woodfox

Book - 2019

Nearly forty years in solitary confinement in a 6-foot by 9-foot cell for 23 hours a day for a crime he did not commit, Albert Woodfox survived and emerged with his humanity and sense of hope for the future intact.

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New York : Grove Press 2019.
First edition. First Grove Atlantic hardcover edition
Item Description
Includes index.
Physical Description
xi, 433 pages ; 25 cm
Main Author
Albert Woodfox (author)
Other Authors
Leslie George (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Woodfox's shocking memoir of his years in prison, mostly under solitary confinement, is a testament to the human spirit and a scathing indictment of the justice system. Growing up in New Orleans during Jim Crow, Woodfox helps his family by committing petty crimes, eventually growing a long rap sheet. During one of his prison stints, he learns about the Black Panthers and is inspired to change his ways. He befriends Panthers Herman Wallace and Robert King, and the three work to organize other prisoners to fight against their inhumane treatment. These actions lead to several false charges, culminating in the framing for the murder of a correctional officer in 1972 and Woodfox's subsequent decades-long solitary confinement. Woodfox's story reads like a prison diary and is unrelenting in its portrait of the day-to-day humiliations and racism experienced by Black prisoners. His fight to clear his name of the murder conviction shows the lengths that the state would go to keep him incarcerated. Woodfox's difficult story is a call to action for justice-system reform. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Convicted of armed robbery, Woodfox joined the Black Panther Party behind bars and was scapegoated with a fellow Panther when a white guard was killed. He subsequently spent four decades in solitary confinement in Louisiana's infamous Angola prison. Throughout, he inspired fellow prisoners and attracted media attention, eventually winning release in 2016. Here he argues for the Black Panthers as socially conscious rather than militant and highlights the essential inhumanity of solitary confinement. Copyright 2018 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Born in segregated New Orleans in 1947 and raised in the black neighborhood Treme, Woodfox offers an autobiography that is more than his life story. Moving from petty thievery to armed robbery that, at 18, sent him to Louisiana's infamous maximum security prison at Angola, Woodfox had a stint in New York's Manhattan House of Detention called "the Tombs." There he met members of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense who increased his understanding of institutionalized racism. Woodfox returned to Angola after being wrongly convicted of the murder of a prison guard, for which he was locked down 23 hours a day in a six-by-nine-foot cell for 44 years. How he survived, indeed how he became a better human being amid beatings, isolation, and persecution carry his narrative. More than his telling self-realization and detailing conditions of life behind bars, Woodfox reaches back to the mold of George Jackson's now classic Soledad Brother (1970) to produce a powerful manifesto for reform of the racist, unjust, and inhumane prison-industrial complex. VERDICT A worthy read for anyone interested in the struggle to ensure humanity exists behind bars in America.—Thomas J. Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe Copyright 2019 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

In this devastating, superb memoir, Woodfox reflects on his decades inside the Louisiana prison system. He recounts that, as a "badass" black youth in 1960s New Orleans bouncing in and out of jail, he encountered the Black Panther Party and "a light went on in a room inside me that I hadn't known existed." His subsequent efforts to organize protests against the dehumanizing treatment of prisoners in the notorious Angola state penitentiary got him framed for the murder of a white correctional officer in 1972. Woodfox spent the next four decades in solitary confinement, struggling to stay sane by educating himself; helping others; and cultivating deep friendships with two other wrongfully convicted Panthers, Herman Wallace and Robert King. In 2016, he made a no-contest plea and was freed. The book is a stunning indictment of a judicial system "not concerned with innocence or justice," and a crushing account of the inhumanity of solitary confinement. This breathtaking, brutal, and intelligent book will move and inspire readers. (Mar.) Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Chronicles the author's extraordinary achievements as an activist during and after spending 40 years in solitary confinement for a crime he did not commit, describing how he has committed his post-exoneration life to prison reform.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Chronicles the author's achievements as an activist during and after spending forty years in solitary confinement for a crime he did not commit, describing how he has committed his post-exoneration life to prison reform.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

FINALIST FOR THE PULITZER PRIZE IN GENERAL NONFICTIONFINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD IN NONFICTIONSolitary 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.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

The extraordinary saga of a man who, despite spending four decades in solitary confinement for a crime of which he was innocent, inspired fellow prisoners, and now all of us, with his humanity