He spent decades in solitary confinement for a crime he didn’t commit. However, Albert Woodfox was able to leave a valuable legacy to the next generation.
Woodfox, one of the “Angola Three” wrongly convicted of killing Louisiana prison guard Brent Miller in 1972, has died aged 75 due to complications of COVID-19, The Guardian reported. He had spent 43 years in solitary confinement before being released in 2016 and used the remainder of his life to speak out against the prison system.
Prior to his murder conviction, Woodfox and fellow Angola Three prisoner Herman Wallace formed a chapter of the Black Panthers. The prison was built on the site of a former slave plantation called Angola because it was the country of origin for many of the slaves who worked the fields.
Although slavery ended, the prison built in its place was still racially segregated and black prisoners were forced to pick cotton in chain gangs in the surrounding fields. Woodfox and Wallace had spoken out about these and other injustices.
Woodfox believed he was wrongfully punished for the prison guard’s murder solely because of his political activism. Still, he and the other prisoners in solitary confinement, including Wallace, used their time to educate one another on black history, mathematics, and reading.
“Our cells were meant to be death chambers but we turned them into schools, into debate halls,” Woodfox told the news outlet. “We used the time to develop the tools that we needed to survive, to be part of society and humanity rather than becoming bitter and angry and consumed by a thirst for revenge.”
After decades in their respective 6-by-9-foot prison cells alone, Woodfox and Wallace were released. Woodfox was 69 years old and would enjoy 6 years on the outside, but Wallace would die from cancer just two days after his release.
Woodfox never gave up on becoming a better person while in prison and used his experience to help others. He has left a valuable legacy even as so many years of freedom were taken from him.