Albert Woodfox, who was held in solitary confinement longer than any prisoner in U.S. history, has died at the age of 75 due to complications tied to COVID-19. The former Black Panther and political prisoner won his freedom six years ago after surviving over 43 years in solitary. After his release, Woodfox wrote a prize-winning memoir, “Solitary: Unbroken by Four Decades in Solitary Confinement. My Story of Transformation and Hope.”
In the book, he wrote about his childhood and how his mother struggled to keep the family cared for, how as a teenager and a young man he was in and out of jails and prisons, and how he became radicalized when he met members of the Black Panther Party, and went on to establish the first chapter of the organization at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola to address horrific conditions at the former cotton plantation. Not long after this, he and fellow prisoner Herman Wallace were accused in 1972 of stabbing prison guard Brent Miller. The two men always maintained their innocence, saying they were targeted because of their political activity. Woodfox, Wallace and a third man, Robert King, became collectively known as the Angola 3.
For decades, Amnesty International and other groups campaigned for their release. Robert King was freed in 2001, when his conviction was overturned. Herman Wallace was freed in 2013, only after a federal judge threatened to jail the warden of Angola prison if he refused to release him that day. Wallace died one day later of liver cancer. But Louisiana refused to release Albert Woodfox until February 19, 2016, on what was 69th birthday.
Albert Woodfox appeared on Democracy Now! several times, including Feb. 22, 2016, just three days after his release, for his first live TV interview. He appeared on Democracy Now! again in 2019 to mark the publication of “Solitary.”