FINALIST FOR THE PULITZER PRIZE IN GENERAL NONFICTION
FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD IN NONFICTION
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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
If you don’t come away from Solitary outraged at the injustices of America’s penal system, you’d best organize a search party for your soul. Albert Woodfox, who was serving a sentence for armed robbery in Louisiana’s notorious Angola prison, was falsely accused of murdering a prison guard in 1972. He then became one of the Angola Three: a trio of African American prisoners who spent more than 40 years in solitary confinement. With co-author Leslie George, Woodfox chronicles every harrowing step of his journey. He doesn’t need to dress up his story with fancy prose—every intense moment of horror and hope speaks for itself. His focus on caring for others left us with faith in humanity’s potential, and optimism that his book may be a call to arms for true prison reform.
In this devastating, superb memoir, Woodfox reflects on his decades inside the Louisiana prison system. He recounts that, as a "badass" black youth in 1960s New Orleans bouncing in and out of jail, he encountered the Black Panther Party and "a light went on in a room inside me that I hadn't known existed." His subsequent efforts to organize protests against the dehumanizing treatment of prisoners in the notorious Angola state penitentiary got him framed for the murder of a white correctional officer in 1972. Woodfox spent the next four decades in solitary confinement, struggling to stay sane by educating himself; helping others; and cultivating deep friendships with two other wrongfully convicted Panthers, Herman Wallace and Robert King. In 2016, he made a no-contest plea and was freed. The book is a stunning indictment of a judicial system "not concerned with innocence or justice," and a crushing account of the inhumanity of solitary confinement. This breathtaking, brutal, and intelligent book will move and inspire readers.