From the Bottom of the Heap: The Autobiography of Black Panther Robert Hillary King

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"In 1970, a jury convicted Robert Hillary King of a crime he did not commit and sentenced him to 35 years in prison. He became a member of the Black Panther Party while in Angola State Penitentiary, successfully organizing prisoners to improve conditions. In return, prison authorities beat him, starved him, and gave him life without parole after framing him for a second crime. He was thrown into solitary confinement, where he remained in a six by nine foot cell for 29 years as one of the Angola 3. In 2001, the state grudgingly acknowledged his innocence and set him free. This is his story." "It begins at the beginning: born black, born poor, born in Louisiana in 1942, King journeyed to Chicago as a hobo at the age of 15. He married and had a child, and briefly pursued a semi-pro boxing career to help provide for his family. Just a teenager when he entered the Louisiana penal system for the first time, King tells of his attempts to break out of this system, and his persistent pursuit of justice where there is none." Yet this remains a story of inspiration and courage, and the triumph of the human spirit. The conditions in Angola almost defy description, yet King never gave up his humanity, or the work towards justice for all prisoners that he continues to do today. From the Bottom of the Heap, so simply and humbly told, strips bare the economic and social injustices inherent in our society, while continuing to be a powerful literary testimony to our own strength and capacity to overcome.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
King has led a remarkable life: a hardscrabble childhood in and around New Orleans, a troubled adolescence, and a series of encounters with the justice system that led to several stints at Louisiana's Angola State Penitentiary. He radicalized while serving his third sentence, joining the Black Panther Party and agitating for improved conditions for prisoners. King was subsequently placed in solitary confinement, where he remained for the better part of three decades. The book is an important document of the failures of the justice system. Mumia Abu-Jamal's foreword attests to the gravity of these failures. However, King's own telling doesn't quite measure up to the story itself. His prose is loose and repetitive, particularly in the early chapters, so it sometimes difficult to keep tabs on people and events. The text is followed by a small collection of interviews and essays that prove engaging but haphazard, in keeping with the anecdotal bent of the autobiography. King's story is powerful, carefully observed, and deserves a wide audience, but such an incendiary topic requires greater precision in its telling. B&W photos.
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From the Publisher
"Three aspects of this book make it accessible and applicable: King's aptitude for storytelling—non-linear, conversational, straightforward, and insightful—his eventual explanation of the Black Panther Party's significance and power, and the details of his own legal battles fought from behind prison bars."  —WIN Magazine

"King uses his own history to show how the racial and economic hierarchies in mid-20th century Louisiana condemned most Black people to lives of insecurity and fear."  —Colorlines

"There are more than 3,000 people serving life without the possibility of parole in Angola today, some as young as 14 when they were sent there, and many of them innocent but without the lawyer to prove it. We owe it to them, and others in a similar plight around the world, to read this book."  —Clive Stafford Smith, director, Reprieve

"[King] fights, he yells, he refuses to take the beatings, whether ideologically or physically. He never gives up hope."  —San Francisco Bay View

"[The Angola Three], as Robert reveals in this stunning account of his life, have fought tirelessly to redress injustice, not only for themselves, but for others."  —Gordon Roddick, activist and cofounder, The Body Shop

"King's story is powerful, carefully observed, and deserves a wide audience." —Publishers Weekly (January 26, 2013)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781604860399
  • Publisher: PM Press
  • Publication date: 10/6/2008
  • Series: PM Press
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 217
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Hillary King was part of a trio of American political prisoners collectively known as the Angola Three and a member of the Black Panther Party. He lives in New Orleans. Mumia Abu Jamal is a prisoner who is currently serving time for the alleged killing of a Philadelphia police officer in 1981. He is the author of Death Blossoms, Live from Death Row, and We Want Freedom. Dr. Terry Kupers, MD, MSP, is a professor at Wright Institute and a distinguished life fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He is the author of Prison Madness and Public Therapy. He lives in Oakland, California.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements xiii

Ruminations on From the Bottom… Mumia Abu-Jamal xvii

Introduction Terry A. Kupers 1

From the Bottom of the Heap 11

Epilogue 199

Whither South Africa: Journey to the Beloved Country Marina Drummer 205

Robert King Live at the Centre for the Study of Crime, Criminalisation and Social Exclusion, October 2011 211

Shaka, or Checks and Balances 223

What's in a Name: (Vulgarizing…Vulgarity) 227

Appendices 233

King Family Tree 235

Anita Roddick: A Friend of Distinction 237

A Poem for Alice (africa) 239

Malik Rahim and the Founding of Common Ground 241

The Case of the Angola 3 243

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