by Albert Woodfox


by Albert Woodfox


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Solitary 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802129086
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date: 03/05/2019
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

Albert Woodfox was born in 1947 in New Orleans. A committed activist in prison, he remained so after his release, speaking to a wide array of audiences, including the Innocence Project, Harvard, Yale, and other universities, the National Lawyers Guild, as well as at Amnesty International events in London, Paris, Denmark, Sweden, and Belgium. His book Solitary was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for Nonfiction, and winner of the Stowe Prize and the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities Book of the Year. It was published in the UK, Canada, Australia, Spain, Germany, and Brazil. He passed away in 2022. 

Read an Excerpt

February 19, 2016.

I woke in the dark. Everything I owned fit into two plastic garbage bags in the corner of my cell. “When are these folks gonna let you out,” my mom used to ask me. Today, mom, I thought. The first thing I’d do is go to her grave. For years I lived with the burden of not saying goodbye to her. That was a heavy weight I’d been carrying.

I rose and made my bed, swept and mopped the floor. I took off my sweatpants and folded them, placing them in one of the bags. I put on an orange prison jumpsuit required for my court appearance that morning. A friend had given me street clothes to wear, for later. I laid them out on my bed.

Many people wrote me in prison over the years, asking me how I survived four decades in a single cell, locked down 23 hours a day. I turned my cell into a university, I wrote them, a hall of debate, a law school. By taking a stand and not backing down, I told them. I believed in humanity, I said. I loved myself. The hopelessness, the claustrophobia, the brutality, the fear, I didn’t say. I looked out the window. A news van was parked down the road outside the jail, headlights still on, though it was getting light now. I’ll be able to go anywhere. To see the night sky. I sat back on my bunk and waited.

Table of Contents

Prologue xiii

Chapter 1 In the Beginning 1


Chapter 2 The High Steppers 13

Chapter 3 Car Chase 21

Chapter 4 Angola, 1960s 24

Chapter 5 Prison Days 31

Chapter 6 Parole and Back Again 39

Chapter 7 Stickup Artist 46

Chapter 8 Tony's Green Room 52

Chapter 9 Escape 56


Chapter 10 Meeting the Black Panther Party 63

Chapter 11 What Is the Party? 67

Chapter 12 NYC Prison Riot 74

Chapter 13 Hostages 80

Chapter 14 Angola, 1971 84

Chapter 15 Herman Wallace 91

Chapter 16 April 17, 1972 96

Chapter 17 CCR 103

Chapter 18 King Arrives 113

Chapter 19 CCR Wars 115

Chapter 20 My Trial, 1973 126

Chapter 21 Herman's Trial, 1974 142

Chapter 22 King Is Set Up 150

Chapter 23 Gary Tyler 154

Chapter 24 Food Slots 157

Chapter 25 My Greatest Achievement 161

Chapter 26 Strip Search Battle 165


Chapter 27 "I Got You" 175

Chapter 28 Sick Call 185

Chapter 29 The Shakedown and the Sham of the Reclass Board 189

Chapter 30 Comrades 195

Chapter 31 Contact Visit 201

Chapter 32 Maturity 206


Chapter 33 Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied 213

Chapter 34 My Greatest Loss 220

Chapter 35 Preparing for My Trial 225

Chapter 36 Amite City 230

Chapter 37 The Crusaders 236

Chapter 38 My Trial, 1998 240

Chapter 39 Back to Angola 250


Chapter 40 We Stand Together 261

Chapter 41 Hidden Evidence 266

Chapter 42 King Leaves the Belly of the Beast 275

Chapter 43 Torture at Camp J 278

Chapter 44 Cruel and Unusual 288

Chapter 45 "Are You Still Sane?" 297

Chapter 46 2008 302

Chapter 47 Never Apart 329


Chapter 48 Torture 341

Chapter 49 Forty Years 344

Chapter 50 Man of Steel 352

Chapter 51 The Ends of Justice 372

Chapter 52 Theories 387

Chapter 53 The Struggles Continues 393

Chapter 54 A Plea for Freedom, Not Justice 397

Epilogue 405

Acknowledgments 415

Index 419

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