Wednesday, June 16, 2010

In The Land Of The Free: New Film About The Angola 3


The Angola 3 refers to three black American men, former members of or associated with the Black Panther Party, who have been imprisoned (collectively) for 100 years in the Angola prison in Lousiana. There is overwhelming evidence that these three men are innocent, but justice in Lousiana is hard to come by.

There is a new film coming out about the Angola 3. Maybe this would be the right time, finally, to put pressure on Kenneth the Page aka Bobby Jindal, Governor of Lousiana, to get him to free these men.

Angola prison, sometimes called "The Farm," is located in the state of Lousiana. It consists of 18,000 acres which formerly were a slave plantation. Most of the slaves who were brought in chains to work at that plantation had been kidnapped from Angola in Africa, and that's how the plantation, and eventually the prison, got its name. Angola has a long history of cruelty and brutality against its prisoners, many of whom will never be released from prison. There are 5000 prisoners at Angola with 1800 staff.

The prisoners still work in the hot fields of corn, sugar cane and cotton, sometimes for as much as 16 hours a day, and are paid pennies for their labor. 80% of the prisoners are black. The warden is a Christian Evangelical and claims that he believes the prisoners can be saved by hard work and prayer.

The prison is surrounded on three sides by the Mississippi River. The movies "Dead Man Walking"and "Monsters Ball" were filmed, in part, at Angola prison. The blues singer and guitarist Leadbelly served a four year sentence there. Angola is legendary for its cruelty, and many singers have written songs about it. There is a great book by James Lee Burke called Last Car To Elysian Fields that has a subplot about a black blues singer from Mississippi who had disappeared 50 years earlier while he was imprisoned at a brutal prison in Lousiana, presumably Angola. It's a haunting description of a prison in which southern white men were allowed to carry on the traditions of the Klan in brutalizing or even murdering black men.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Black Panther Party was formed to demand justice for black people in the U.S. The closet-dwelling and cross-dressing J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, created his own secret program called Cointelpro to frame, imprison, and/or have murdered any people or group that he considered to be a danger to society. Hoover said he thought the Black Panther Party was the most dangerous organization in the country. (No, Edgar -- that would have been the Republicans). Many members of the Black Panther Party were framed, many still are in prison, many were murdered. At around the same time, black communities around the country were flooded with drugs. The CIA was implicated in running drugs from southeast Asia, and some believe that the infusion of drugs into black neighborhoods was part of an overall program to destroy the black community and particularly its young men.

"The Land of the Free" is a new film about 3 men, members of or associated with the Black Panther Party, who were imprisoned in the former slave plantation known as Angola prison, in the state of Lousiana. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, the film tells the tragic story of the three men known as the Angola 3. Overwhelming evidence shows they were framed and wrongfully convicted of murdering a white prison guard. Even the widow of the murder victim supports their demand for freedom. International support has grown to demand justice for these men. One of the three, Robert King, was finally released from prison in 2001. The other two men, Herbert Wallace and Albert Woodfox have been held in solitary confinement for over thirty-seven years.

Wallace and Woodfox both were members of the Black Panther party. Angola was known as being the bloodiest prison in the country, and Wallace and Woodfox began organizing the prisoners to try to end the violence among prisoners. Because of these efforts, the prison block in which they are held became known as the Panther block, and Wallace and Woodfox were considered to be radicals. There were no black guards. The prison was violent, and had an organized sex-slave system by which prisoners were bought and sold for sexual purposes. The warden at that time was later himself sentenced to a 50-year prison term for the attempted murder of his wife (he shot her 5 times).

A prison guard named Brent Miller was murdered. He was stabbed to death. Wallace and Woodfox were charged with the crime, although they both deny having done it, and neither of them had any history of violence. The main prisoner witness who testified against them was quickly released from prison after the warden personally lobbied for his release. Other prisoner witnesses later recanted. One of the prisoners that the prosecution called to say that he "saw" Wallace and Woodfox kill the warden was a blind man. Four fingerprints including one bloody fingerprint and a knife were found near the murdered guard. The fingerprints did not match either Wallace or Woodfox, and their prints were not on the knife. Despite that, the warden refused to have the prints run against those of the prisoners which were already on file.

Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop, learned about the efforts of Wallace and Woodfox to prove their innocence through an attorney who was representing them, and she became a big supporter of the efforts, and brought international attention to their situation. Roddick died in 2007, but others have stepped forward to continue efforts to gain freedom for Wallace and Woodfox.

Here's a link to a website that allows you to send a message to Attorney General Holder and Governor of Lousiana Bobby Jindal asking them to free the two members of the Angola 3 who still remain in prison: Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox. It will just take a minute, and it might help.

One way you can help out and contribute a little money is by buying some of the Angola 3 support items available at their website, here:
They've got T-shirts, canvas bags, posters, postcards -- even baby clothes, all supporting the demand to free the Angola 3.

See also:

(Gwen Filosa, 3/17/08, Times Picayune)

Angola 3 is a song produced by Dave Stewart in protest of the incarceration of the Angola 3 featuring Saul Williams, Nadirah X, Asdru Sierra, Dana Glover, Tina Schlieske, Derrick Ashong and Dave Stewart. Visit and for more info.

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