Dear Friends and Family–
With heavy hearts, we write to share that our partner, brother, father, grandfather, comrade and friend, Albert Woodfox, passed away this morning at Ochsner Baptist hospital in New Orleans from COVID-19-related complications. He was 75.
Whether you know him as Fox, Shaka, Cinque, or Albert – he knew you as family. Please know that your care, compassion, friendship, love, and support have sustained Albert, and comforted him.
Born in New Orleans on February 19, 1947, to Ruby Edward Mable Hamlin and Leroy Woodfox, Albert’s childhood was enriched by the powerful love of his mother, and his stepfather, Jethro Hamlin. The oldest of six siblings including his cherished sister Violetta Mable, and four brothers, James Mable, Haywood Mable, Michael Mable, and Donald Mable. Albert was a born leader.
From leader, he grew into a liberator. Though he was wrongfully incarcerated for over 40 years in solitary confinement under the harshest conditions of our already tortuous carceral system for a crime he did not commit, Albert unrelentingly sought to share with others the mental and emotional freedom he had found in himself. While he was incarcerated, that meant teaching fellow prisoners to read; doing legal work to help people with their cases; and, together with Herman Wallace and Robert King, going toe to toe with officials and administrators to protest, file grievances, and win lawsuits that made Angola prison ever so slightly more humane.
After his conviction was overturned, and Albert was released on February 19, 2016 (69 years to the date of his birth), Albert continued to liberate by speaking unflinching truth to power about the atrocities of our criminal legal systems. As a member of the Angola 3, and often with A3’s Robert King, he addressed audiences all over our country and across the world from school children to federal judges, and from all walks of life between to talk about the transformative power of collective organizing, solidarity, and resistance. He was a proud former member of the Black Panther Party.
In 2019, Albert published Solitary, a searing biography that tells the story of his extraordinary unbroken spirit and relentless activism. Critically acclaimed, Solitary was a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist, and winner of the Stowe Prize and American Book Award. As the Washington Post put it, Solitary, should make every reader writhe with shame and ask: what am I going to do to help change this? Indeed, Alberttriumph over profound inhumanity and degradation will forever be an inspiration to us all.
Apart from being survived by his brothers, Albert is survived by his life partner and co-author, Leslie George; his daughter Brenda Poole; three grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren as well as a host of nieces and nephews and great-nieces and great-nephews – all of whom he adored. There is no way to name all those who live on to love Albert in spirit. He will be missed by his legion of incredible family and friends. He will be missed by countless people he never met who have been inspired byAlbert story. People who are now inspired to think more deeply about mass incarceration, prison abuse, solitary confinement, and racial and economic injustices; to create more beauty and truth in artful antidote to the ugly inhumanities of our world; and to join him in the perennial struggle against ongoing, intersectional oppressions.
At Albert request, there will be no formal funeral. What Albert wanted most of all was to be remembered in each of our hearts, and through whatever work we might do in the world to build more fair, loving, and just communities. In the coming months, we will write again to update you on plans for a memorial celebrating this revolutionary’s life. We hope that in the meanwhile, as all of our hearts ache, you will take it upon yourselves to gather with others and commune together, so that we may lift each other up and remember our friend and comrade.
Albert sustained many devastating losses while in prison; his beloved mother Ruby, his sister Violetta, his childhood friend (Violetta’s husband) Michael Augustine, his dear friend and trailblazing advocate Anita Roddick, activists Althea Francois and Mwalimu Johnson, as well as many fallen comrades, including fellow New Orleans natives Geronimo Ji Jaga, and Herman Wallace, the third member of the Angola 3, whom he described as “the other part of my heart.” He understood grief. We take comfort in the words that he spoke after Herman passed, Think of what you had,” he said, “not what you lost.
Albert wrote, as human beings, we need to insist on the humane treatment of prisoners and the rehabilitation and education of prisoners. In lieu of flowers, we ask you to honor Albert’s generous spirit by giving (whether monetarily or in-kind) to organizations that are doing the work near to his heart: prison reform, ending solitary confinement, freeing all political prisoners, and educating the children and adults mercilessly caught up in the prison industrial complex.
Albert Woodfox, Prison Activist and Author of Solitary, dies at 75
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 4, 2022
We grieve the loss of our former client and friend, Albert Woodfox, who passed away this afternoon of complications caused by COVID-19. He was 75.
A member of the “Angola 3,” Mr. Woodfox was one of three men who were wrongfully convicted after the April 1972 murder of a prison guard at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a former slave plantation turned prison, also known as “Angola.” Narrowly escaping death sentences—which the Supreme Court had, at the time, declared unconstitutional—each of the Angola 3 would instead become permanently isolated in a 6 by 9 foot cell, under 23-hour a day lockdown conditions, for durations ongoing decades. Fellow prisoner Robert King was released in 2001, and Mr. Woodfox’s co-defendant Herman Wallace, was released in 2013, just days before he passed away of cancer.
The wheels of justice turned, tortuously, even more slowly in Mr. Woodfox’s case. After decades of having his conviction overturned and then reinstated, Mr. Woodfox was finally released in February 2016. By then he had been held for over 40 years in solitary confinement. In exchange for freedom from the cells, Mr. Woodfox maintained his innocence and entered a plea deal to lesser offenses. Mr. Woodfox is widely believed to have been held in solitary confinement longer than anyone else in the history of United States.
Throughout the decades of his incarceration, Mr. Woodfox’s case, and the rank injustices exposed by his wrongful conviction and confinement, were widely publicized. (https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2008-may-03-na-angola3-story.html;
https://www.npr.org/2008/10/28/96199165/favors-inconsistencies-taint-angola-murder-case; https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/13/us/louisiana-angola-albert-woodfox.html). Since his 2016 release, however, Mr. Woodfox grew to be even more widely venerated as an activist and authorhttps://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/16/how-albert-woodfox-survived-solitary;https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/mar/04/after-40-years-in-solitary-activist-albert-woodfox-tells-his-story-of-survival; https://groveatlantic.com/book/solitary/).
Even while held in isolation for a crime he did not commit, Mr. Woodfox relentlessly sought to share with others the mental and emotional freedom he had found within himself. On the inside, that meant teaching fellow prisoners to read by creating and sliding workbooks down the prison tier; doing legal work to help others with their cases; and, together with Herman Wallace and Robert King, going toe-to-toe with officials and administrators to protest, file grievances and win lawsuits that made Angola prison ever so slightly more humane.
But as a returning citizen, Mr. Woodfox continued to dedicate his life to liberation. He spoke unflinching truth to power about the atrocities of our criminal legal systems. He addressed audiences all over our country and across the world—from school children to federal judges, and from all walks of life in between—to talk about the transformative power of collective organizing, solidarity, and resistance.
Mr. Woodfox’s mother, Ruby Edward Mable Hamlin, taught him that “[a] man ain’t nothing without his word.” And we are fortunate that Mr. Woodfox left the world a beautiful book full. In 2019, Mr. Woodfox published Solitary: Unbroken by Four Decades in Solitary Confinement. My Story of Transformation and Hope, a searing biography that tells the story of his extraordinary unbroken spirit and relentless activism. Critically acclaimed, Solitary was a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist, and winner of the Stowe Prize and American Book Award. As one publication put it, as concerns mass incarceration, Solitary, “should make every reader writhe with shame and ask: [w]hat am I going to do to help change this?”
There is no way to name all those who live on to love Mr. Woodfox in spirit. He will be missed by his legion of incredible family and friends. Apart from being survived by his brothers James Bob Mable, Haywood Mable, Michael Mable, and Donald Mable, Mr. Woodfox is survived by his life partner and co-author, Leslie George; his daughter Brenda Poole; three grandchildren, and four great grandchildren. He will be missed by countless people—most of whom he never met—who have been inspired by Mr. Woodfox’s legacy. Inspired to think more deeply about mass incarceration, prison abuse, and racial injustice; to create more beauty and truth in artful antidote to the ugly inhumanities of our world; and to join him in the perennial struggle against ongoing, intersectional oppressions. Mr. Woodfox will be missed even, maybe especially, by the stray pup who adopted him and Ms. George just a few years ago on the levee, Hobo. And certainly, Mr. Woodfox will be missed the lineage of lawyers, paralegals, experts and others who worked to secure his freedom for nearly half a century.
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