For four decades Black Panther Party members Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox were held in solitary confinement at the infamous Angola prison in Louisiana. Wallace, Woodfox, and Robert Hillary King have become known as ‘The Angola 3,’and were all separately convicted of armored robbery in 1971 and sent to Angola prison.
Angola prison in Louisiana is considered to be the “the bloodiest prison in the South,” where prisoners still harvest cotton, corn, and wheat for less than 20 cents per day and suffer daily from segregation, systemic corruption, and horrific prisoner abuse or even rape. Some privileged white prisoners are also given arms and allowed to enforce the prison law and treat black prisoners with serious malice and abuse.
Neither men where part of any civil movements prior to being imprisoned, but they founded the prison chapter of the Black Panther Party to organize petitions, hunger strikes, and peaceful protests to address the very harsh treatment of inmates and campaign for better conditions. Wallace and Woodfox where convicted in 1973 of the murder of a prison guard Brent Miller despite no physical evidence linking them to the crime, a print at the murder scene did not match either accused, and multiple alibi witness testimonies were ignored. Since then, all DNA evidence has been lost and the star witness has been proven to have lied under oath and testified only in exchange for a pardon and many prison benefits such as weekly cartons of cigarettes. Nevertheless, they remained in solitary confinement for nearly 40 years.
In 1997, Malik Rahim a former Black Panther member and a lawyer named Scott Fleming began investigating why these men were still locked up and have been petitioning for their release. In 2001, King was released after 29 years in solitary confinement after his conviction was overturned. Since then, he has worked to build international recognition for the Angola 3, and has spoken before parliaments and governments in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Brazil. There have been 2 documentary films about the Angola 3: 3 Black Panthers and the last Slave Plantation in 2006, and In the Land of the Free in 2010. Amnesty international has added them to the ‘Political prisoners’ and Prisoners of conscience’ lists, and has called for their release on humanitarian grounds.