[AAS Podcast] Episode #18: The Journey From Solitary To Activism

Tuesday, Oct 1, 2019
by Department of African American Studies

Professor Eddie Glaude Jr. sits down with Assistant Professor Autumn Womack to explore the process of developing a book. Professor Womack sheds light on the power of the archive, the importance of honing in on your ideas, and insights on organizing your ideas for manuscript.

We then join Professor Joshua Guild in conversation with activist and author Albert Woodfox. His book, Solitary, follows his unforgettable life story and journey of serving more than four decades in solitary confinement—in a 6-foot by 9-foot cell, 23 hours a day, in the 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.

 


 

Podcast Transcript:

(0:00) 

 

[intro music]

 

Mr. Eddie S. Glaude Jr.: Hello, and thank you for listening to African American Studies at Princeton University a conversation around the field of African American Studies in the black experience in the 21st century. I'm your host, Eddie S. Glaude Jr and I'm the chair of the Department of African American Studies here at Princeton. You're listening to Episode 18, recorded for the month of October and today I'm joined by assistant Professor Autumn Womack. Professor Womack specializes in the 19th and early 20th century African American literature with a particular research and teaching focus on the intersection of visual technology, race, and literary culture. She's currently finishing up her book manuscript "Undisciplined Data; Race, Visuality and African American Literary Aesthetics 1880 to 1930." She examines the important formal and technical features of emergent visual technologies such as photography, motion pictures and social surveys to black literary culture from the 1880s all the way through the 1930s. Welcome. So, Professor Womack, I'm so excited to talk about your new book Undisciplining Data. Tell me how this idea came to you? We've talked about the particulars of the book before. But I think what's important about this conversation today is, I want us to talk about it as a kind of model for how we come to an idea how we execute that idea how we nurture it over time, and bring it home as it were. So talk a little bit about how you came to this, to this brilliant.

 

Professor Autumn Womack: I came to the book through the archive, which was a little bit of a circuitous process. So I have always been really interested in this late 19th, early 20th century moment, particularly because there's just so much writing that was done during this time period, and so many archival resources, but I feel like it's also a really understudied moment. (2:00) So I came to it just by trying to figure out what people were thinking and doing in this time period. And one of the things I noticed is that all of the black intellectuals and cultural producers were also doing double duty as some type of social scientific thinker or reformer.

 

Eddie: So, so for our listeners, who didn't, who didn't hear our earlier conversation, why don't you tell them-- Tell them a little bit about the book? 

 

Professor Womack: Yes.

 

Eddie: First, and then we can get into the uhh--

 

Professor Womack: Got it. Okay, cool. So the book is about this late 19th, early 20th century moment when black intellectuals and cultural producers were really trying to figure out how they were going to answer what everybody was calling the Negro problem. And so what the book looks at is how this select group of both everyday folks and people that we know like Kelly Miller and WB, the Boys and Ida B. Wells, turn to these new modes of data producing technology to try to figure out a different way to produce information transformative information about blacks social life. And by transformative I mean information that did not automatically flattened black life to just mere statistics or facts. Right? So one of the tensions was how do you actually produce vital body of data? And so each of the books, three chapters looks at a particular technology that was a data-producing technology. So I look at the Social Survey, photography and film, and I look at how folks like the boys and Kelly Miller and Ida B. wells, experimented with these technologies, and then how those experiments also then provided the workings for, for black literary aesthetics. So there's a double double-duty that's happening--

 

Eddie: And you said, you came across this while you were in the archive. 

 

Professor Womack: Yeah.

 

Eddie: So, what was it about what happened in the archive?

 

Professor Womack: The first thing that happened and it's kind of uhh, an unconventional pathway. Umm, so the first thing happened is I was writing about certain Greg's 1899 novel Imperium and Imperial and I noticed that Kelly Miller had done a review of Imperium and Imperial, and he had also done a review of Frederick Kaufman's 1896 (4:00) Sociological Treaties; Race Traits and Tendencies in the American Negro which was basically saying that blacks were destined for extinction. And he used the exact same language to talk about Kelly-- talk about Frederick Kaufman and talk about Sutton Griggs sounds like there's something going on where they're thinking about fiction and sociology and statistics together. So then I tried to figure out all of these other moments of overlap between the aesthetic, the data and the sociological. So of course, I wanted W to two boys and try to think about the moments where he was writing about these, umm, this relationship between data and literary aesthetics, both in both unpublished places and then in his letters. Imperium and Imperial, again, contains at the end and account of a family who survived a lynching. So I started to try to figure out "Hey, what's going on? What's the real story behind this?" I knew it was based on a real-life event. And this took me to another entire archival explosion, where this family was at the center of anti-lynching performance spectacle. Umm, and also the language that was used to describe its performance spectacle was how do we get, Umm, how we produce living data living facts. So there was this, this language that I noticed that was underpinning all of the, umm, both social scientific anesthetic productions during this time period.

 

Eddie: So how do you get from that experience in the archive? You boil it down to the idea to the page. 

 

Professor Womack: Hmm, so you mean both my writing process? 

 

Eddie: Yeah, yeah. Cause I'm trying to think about right. So you go into the archive--

 

Professor Womack: Yeah.

 

Eddie: Right? I mean, we had this conversation earlier, with our colleague, Tera Hunter.

 

Professor Womack: Yeah. Oh, my gosh.

 

Eddie: We talked about the expansive nature of the archive and the choices she had to make in order to get to the page.

 

Professor Womack: It's hard. Yeah.

 

Eddie: So here, you know, the archive, because the kind of space that generates the idea and then you kind of track one thing to the other leads to the other. How do you get from the idea to the page?

 

Professor Womack: Umm, so I end up writing a ton. So I usually write down every iteration of the story that I found, and so it ends up being like hundreds of pages(6:00) just the account, just the story based on all of the newspaper clippings that I found all the letters, all the photographic documentation, all of the the deposit slips in the Library of Congress when they deposited films for copyright or whatever it is I'm looking at. So I just write the story, just in really basic factual terms like this happened, this happened, this happened, this happened. And then usually, once I have just kind of the facts, almost like a bullet-pointed chronological way, then I can begin to see the repetitions. So I really do follow the archives lead, which can be frustrating because it can take me a really long time to figure it out. So what I found, for example, in the case of this family who survived the lynching and then we're meet the objects of display and this anti-lynching lecture-performance is that they kept using the term object lesson object lesson object lesson. So it's like okay, this is the thing that I want to orient my reading. So once I have the story in the most factual way, then I re-narrate it with this organizing impulse of object lessons. 

 

Eddie: Yeah. How, how would you describe that method logically, I mean, within the context of literary studies?

 

Professor Womack: It's tough. And so I describe it and this I, I move in a direction that Jacky Goldsby moves in with, and this particular secret, what she talks about reading from the archive, rather than into the archive, so really letting the archive direct me, umm, which is different than saying, Okay, I'm going to do a mean nobody does this anymore, like a post-structuralist reading a blank, right, impose a theory onto it. Umm, but really, like, what is the theory that this archive is announcing for us? So I just like the term of reading, reading theory from the archive. 

 

Eddie: So that's fascinating. So what do you do with the gaps? I mean because you know, there's this interesting kind of--

 

Professor Womack: I know.

 

Eddie: I don't want-- it's not it's, it's a trend. 

 

Professor Womack: Yeah, that's a speculative.

 

Eddie: Yeah. So what do you do with that? 

 

Professor Womack: Yeah, well, there are some moments in the book where I have to pause and do a little speculative work. So there's this one moment again, in this this I'll just stick with the losing survivor chapter where there's this whole archive of photographs, umm, and we don't(8:00)actually know kind of what the life cycle of these photographs was, although, umm, I do have some evidence that they moved up and down the East Coast as part of a subscription project for the Richmond planet. So I speculate a bit about, okay, whose homes with these photographs have landed in. And so I've looked at the readership of this newspaper, and I kind of tried to imagine where they would have how they would have, umm, landed in these homes were, what they would have looked like what they were, they wouldn't place an album or on the wall and how that shifts our understanding of the photographic photograph circulation. So there are moments where you have to kind of imagine which I think is the fun part, or one of the fun parts. 

 

Eddie: There's always rooted in the archive.

 

Professor Womack: It's always heard in the archives.

 

Eddie: So, you're not just write ups and making up stuff?

 

Professor Womack: I'm not just writing it up. And I know that there are-- there is a way to do a different kind of speculative history. And I'm not a historian I don't claim to be so I don't do that kind of speculative, historical work. Umm, but I do think you can imagine based on what you have, how this archive, whatever.

 

Eddie: So you're rambling around the archives. You come across this idea. It captures your attention you then, then you become the detective that you are, you trace its tracks, you follow its lead, its pathways. Uhh, you bring it, it comes to the page, then you give birth to the dissertation, dissertation now has to become a book, talk about this process because this is really important, umm, for, for younger scholars to kind of think about moving from that, that generative moment, right? To, to thinking about process and being true to one's process, in the context of the pressures of professionalization. And all the things that come with teaching and the likes of talk a little bit about the process moving out of the kind of we wouldn't think of it when we were in graduate school is the idyllic space of graduate school, having that time to now to this moment in, you know, where you have to kind of, it's almost a second or third iteration of the project. 

 

Professor Womack:(10:00) Yeah. Right. I think one of the things that has really helped to me is to stop trying to read everything. So there's a way that when you're writing a dissertation, you feel responsible for proving that you have this vast knowledge of the entire field. And everybody who's ever written about certain drugs is somehow making it into my notes. Right? And so you already have all that information that you've done all that work in the dissertation. So it's there, it's not going anywhere, and it's informing how you're thinking and how you're writing. But I think what's been really useful for me in especially in this time constraint thing that you're mentioning, right, like you don't actually have time to reread, it's not useful to reread all of these things that we don't need an entire account of everyone who's written about Griggs. But I think that there's a way of really sharpening your reading practice right around the folks that you're interested in being in direct conversation with, without trying to just do it for the sake of doing it. So I think there's a way of really sharpening the focus that I've I'm still learning how to do but I think that's one of the biggest, the biggest leaps from the dissertation research to the book. 

 

Eddie: So what do you do with the moments of doubt? When you when, when the project? Seems like it has, it has you by the throat? 

 

Professor Womack: Send it to someone else?

 

Eddie: Ahh, someone you trust? 

 

Professor Womack: Yes.

 

Eddie: Is their someone else really someone else? Or is it? Is it an advisor? I mean, who is this someone else? 

 

Professor Womack: I send it so I have what, umm, one of my good friends whose book is coming out called A Book Midwife. You just need somebody who you trust, who knows the field and knows your project well enough, right? Who knows what you're trying to do, you can just be a total stranger. So there's moments of doubt where I'm like, I don't know if this is writing. I don't know if this is making sense and I send it to her and she checks me it's like this is totally fine, you just can't see or is that we're actually is able to isolate the problems that I need to work through so that I don't end up just being on a hamster wheel and going down a rabbit hole which can happen so quickly, and especially when you're doing archival work, where you just don't know when to stop taking and you don't really want(12:00)too and then the book spirals out of control. So I've had versions like a 200-page chapter. This is not or anything anybody wants to read, including myself? So I think at the moments of doubt, you have to get it off the desk.

 

Eddie: You have to get it off the desk. I remember the the historian Nell Painter, you know, once telling me, you know, you know, you just have to stop writing, you have to just put the period. 

 

Professor Womack: I know, it's so hard.

 

Eddie: You know, it's so hard. And you know, and I think, you know, oftentimes, when we do our work, we are kind of caught up in the work itself. And oftentimes, we think we have to put every idea we have in that one work, not understanding that we have a career.

 

Professor Womack: Right.

 

Eddie: Right. There's a body of work that we're trying to produce. And this is just one instance. I don't have to put everything I'm thinking in this one book. And that you know that this is the opening sound, especially if it's your first book. It's the opening move, opening gesture.

 

Professor Womack: Yeah-- I know--[crosstalk] It so hard to remember that.

 

Eddie: You know, and you know, pawns when you move your pawn and queen and you know, you people will say, Oh, he's or she's, she's gonna, she's pursuing that particular strategy. But it's not like the most powerful move ever made chess player. 

 

Professor Womack: Right. And I remember something you said to me last year was like, what's the question that's kind of animating your writing and your career? Umm, like what's the thing that you're returning to over and over again? I think it's useful also to, to think about that, when you're thinking about moving the dissertation to the book and thinking about what can fall out and answer a different question or answer the question in a different way at another moment, right? Umm, I'm kind of thinking about the long delay of the questioning and the writing. 

 

Eddie: So even so, so we've talked about the kind of generative moment, finding the idea and in the archive bringing that I following that idea to a point where you could bring it to the page, right? Engaging in that difficult process of, of bringing it to(14:00) life. Over the course of 2-3-4 durations. How do you deal with that moment when? umm, how can I put this when it seems as if you're getting tired of it. Where the where the mind is opening up on the next project and you are still trying to tie that bow of the last project. So how do you deal with that? Let's call it the interregnum. That moment between ending of one in the beginning of the other. 

 

Professor Womack: Yeah-- I know-- Yeah-- [crosstaIk] I think at those moments, I have either gone to the kota of the book, which is usually like the, which for me, and I think for many people, it's a place where you're kind of transitioning into the next idea anyway, so I actually wrote the Kota, umm, when I was sick of writing chapter one. Like I don't know what else I'm saying. 

 

Eddie: [Laugh] You wrote the kota after you wrote chapter one?

 

Professor Womack: I was like, I know what I want to say in the Kota. I know exactly. This is what's exciting me right now. Like I have energy around this. So I do think it's important to follow the places where you have or go to the places where you have energy. Umm, and that excites you because we spend so much time writing and it can feel like a drag if you're not, if you're if you're just, you know, churning through it, and you're not excited about it. So I think that preserves that excitement and that energy and to remind ourselves why we do this. It's okay to break. Okay, I'm not, I'm not working on chapter one anymore. I have no clue. I'm in a rabbit hole, I can't see my way out. I'm going to go to the thing that excites me. I'm going to remember why I like doing this. I also really like writing little short, like 2000-3000 word things that are quick that feel lower stakes, and that allow me to kind of get excited again about language in a way that it just you can just feel like you're shifting grains of sand when you're doing the revisions. It's like a semicolon to a colon to and dash to and or but. Umm, and that is important, but it's hard to remain excited, umm, about the ideas.

 

Eddie: So we're talking about processes, we come to a close and I really want to thank you for taking the time to talking all of this,

(16:00)

 umm, with me, there are young scholars out there, some of whom are fumbling about in archives, trying to find the idea. Some of whom are pulling their hair as they sit in front of their computer waiting for the first sentence to come from their hands to the keyboard to the screen, some who are thinking about what they're going to do on the job market, and how are they going to survive? In this particularly scarce market, others who are in jobs and anxiety written about a wide range of things? What sort of advice would you give them given your own journey to now? What sort of advice would you give them? 

 

Professor Womack: I would say two things first, in terms of archival work, to really just let the archive speak to you and don't try to impose what you think it should tell you or what you think the narrative should be. And that often will then produce a really exciting project. And I would also say, really remember why you started doing the work and I think it's really easy to forget. But I think if you remember that moment, that generative moment where you started to become excited about whatever aspect of writing or intellectual work that you do, you can remember that and kind of stay true to that and honor that. I think that that's an important place to return to, for yourself as you try to write.

 

Eddie:  The powerful thing about that piece of advice is that it obtains no matter what stage you are.

 

Professor Womack: Right, right, it's so hard to lose track of it. Like why am I doing that? Yeah.

 

Eddie: Right. Because the passion, the passion is the engine right?

 

Professor Womack: Yep. 

 

Eddie: Well, thank you so much.

 

Professor Womack: Thank you. 

 

Eddie: What a wonderful conversation so much for your insight and, and for sharing your experience. I appreciate it.

 

Professor Womack: Thank you.

 

Eddie: Up next Professor Joshua Guild sits down with activist and author Albert Woodfox. His recent book was just long-listed for the National Book Award. Stay tuned. And just as a caution, do note that there will be some strong language here.

 

[music]

 

Professor Joshua Guild:(18:00) Hello, I'm Joshua Guild, associate professor of history and African American Studies. Today I'm honored to be joined by a very special guest activist and author Albert Woodfox. Mr. Woodfox is the author of the recently released book Solitary Unbroken by Four Decades in Solitary Confinement; My Story of Transformation and Hope. In the book he recounts the story of his upbringing in New Orleans during Jim Crow, raised by a mother who struggled valiantly to protect and provide for our children in the face of poverty and circumscribed opportunity alienated from school and drawn to the streets. His early encounters with the law as a teenager and young man eventually landed him in Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, the notorious Angola prison a brutal and violent place erected on the site of a former slave plantation over the course of the late 1960s. In this in the first years of the 1970s, Mr. Woodfox would cycle in and out of jail and a series of arrests, escapes and rearrest. He spent a brief but pivotal period in New York City where you encountered up close the work and the teachings of the Black Panther Party landing back in Angola in 1971 sentence to 50 years for armed robbery. Woodfox dedicated himself to the principles of the Black Panthers. And with fellow inmate Herman Wallace began to organize prisoners to contest the pooring conditions inside Angola, founding the first officially sanctioned prison chapter of the Black Panthers. And then in 1972, April Woodfox, Wallace and two other prisoners were accused of stabbing to death a white prison guard Brent Miller inside a prison dormitory despite the wildly conflicting accounts of purported inmate eyewitnesses, no physical evidence linking them to the murder, rampant prejudice and the misconduct of prosecutors. Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace were found guilty of killing Brent Miller, Wallace and Woodfox was sent to close cell restrictions CCR or solitary confinement, each locked in a six by nine cell for 23 hours of every day, allowed out only for a single hour able to go outside but three hours of every week, Mr. Wallace and Mr. Woodfox we're joined by another politically active prisoner, Robert King, although he had been locked up in an unrelated(20:00) charge in New Orleans some hundred and 30 miles away from Angola at the time of Brent Miller's murder was nevertheless targeted by prison officials as a threat and relegated to the same fate and solitary. Together, the men would spend decades in solitary confinement challenging their convictions and fighting back against the conditions of their incarceration and time they would become known as the Angola Three. Robert King would win his freedom in 2001. Herman Wallace was released in 2013, with a diagnosis of terminal liver cancer. And then in February 2016 on his 69th birthday, Albert Woodfox walked out of prison for the last time. Today we'll talk to Albert Woodfox about his journey about his unwavering commitment to struggle about the relationships he formed and maintain behind bars and about what his life has been like since his release, and finally about his decision to write this powerful book. So first, welcome to the African American Studies podcast. Albert Woodfox.

 

Albert Woodfox: Thank you for having me, Professor Guild.

 

Professor Guild: It's so wonderful to have you here and I wonder we can start to talk a little bit about New Orleans that the ones that you grew up in. And I know you were born and raised in the treme and spend some time elsewhere, but that's really your home base. Umm, how would you describe the path of your kind of upbringing to your kind of eventual involvement in the criminal justice system? 

 

Albert: Well, you know, New Orleans was only a reflection of America as a whole. I grew up in a segregated south segregated country, and which racism was blatantly displayed against African American people and other minorities and uhh, it was our upbringing you know, because the opportunities particularly economic opportunities, and uhh, you know, jobs and, and, and they have been able to own businesses and stuff for severely uhh, discriminated against uhh, African American and so you know, I live by came up in our own neighborhood of poverty but you(22:00) know, I had you know, I didn't realize at the time but later on in life I became to understand what not extraordinary a woman my mom or and it was like we were living uhh, in this island in the midst of poverty. But somehow poverty never touched us because my mom made our you know, always made sure we had clothes to wear and food on the table and roof over our head. And you know, uhh, so you know, you know, forever be grateful for that, you know?

 

Professor Guild: uhh, tell me about your brothers and sisters.

 

Albert: I have four brothers and a sister. Unfortunately, I lost my sister to cancer and 2002 and I lost my mom to cancer in 1994. You know, the fact that I was in prison most of my life, you know, my, you know, brothers basically my whole family grew up without me being there physically, but prior to going to prison, you know, I was very close to, you know, my mom and my sister and my brothers, especially my sister, we had one of those unique brother-sister relationships, you know. And so uh, you know, like I say, you know, it was a struggle, you know, it was my mom guest a whirl. Yeah, I guess you could say, you know?

 

Professor Guild:  I've heard you say in the past that, uhh, you know, your mom tried to instill in you some values but the streets were calling in a certain way right? the call the streets and sort of gotcha what Tell me about that. I mean, what what drew you to this the so-called street life?

 

Albert: [laughter] Poverty. You know, not having any role models not having opportunities as a young man, you know, the only you either you you you use the strongest sense tank and human beings is to survive, you know, and if you can survive the right way you're going to survive the wrong way.(24:00)And unfortunately, the right way was not an opportunity for African Americans. You know, I sometimes wonder in today's society, the African Americans in this country did have it, you know, I don't know if they could have survived the brutality of racism in the south. I mean, it was brutal. You know, I mean, you, you know, how I all those would be disrespected, our parents were disrespected. Uhh, We were always referred to as boys, a niggas and, you know, and any other derogatory term that uh, you know, whites decide, you know, I, I know what it's like to be sitting on the bus and being forced to go to the back of the bus when the white person gets on the bus, you know, I know what it's like to go to a department store, and they got a little special room in the back where blacks had to go in order to purchase stuff and you had to tell a clerks what you want and they would go and get it and bring it and you had to take whatever they brought. All you didn't, you didn't want allowed to buy anything. So you're not I know what it's like. I picked cotton, my grandparents' farm, you know, so, some of the things that you know, apart our history now, you know, and most young African Americans don't really understand the severity of it. I live through it, you know and managed to survive as far as my mom, my mom was functionally illiterate. But, you know, I come to understand later on in life that she was one of the wisest women, you know, I had ever known and she actually, you know, was my voice hero, you know, and what she couldn't instill in me intellectually she instilled in me by example, you know, hard work(26:00)dedication, sacrifice, you know, compassion, kindness, you know, things that at one time I saw as you know, weaknesses. And you know, I eventually grew into this, these principles, and they shaped the foundation and allow me to survive 42 years or 44 years right inside solitary confinement. 

 

Professor Guild: So how is it that you ended up in Angola prison the first time?

 

Albert: I was a petty crime? That was that was briefly, you know, the life of young African American men. As I say we lived in a segregated site, South and job opportunities were very limited. And so you, you know, you go out and you know, and you rob and you steal and you use drugs and you sell drugs to all adults with all the things that were available to African American young men in in my generation, and uh, you know, my heroes were guys who went to prison and survived, you know, I mean, I didn't have any knowledge. I didn't even know the African Americans had history and, and not only in, in America but in the country and the world, you know, and so, there was no example I may, you know, I later, you know, learn about you know, Harriet Tubman and, and Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, you know, and some of the other greats a young, a true Denmark visa, you know, some of the people who made tremendous sacrifices on in the most brutal times, you know, to try to liberate African Americans from our chattel slavery.

 

Professor Guild: What was Angola like when you first arrived? How would you describe it?

 

Albert: You know, Angola was a farmer slave plantation, and spirited people who(28:00) worked there go back 10-15 generations so you had this attitude toward the African American that that has been passed from one generation to another generation that exists doing child slavery. You know, Angola was a former slave plantation and so Angola has just been designated as the bloodiest prison in America. And, you know, so when I got there, you know, I found, you know, violence almost every day, prisons against prisoners, security people against prisoners, administrative people, mostly concerned with lining their pockets rather than, you know, any meaningful interior rehabilitative programs, anything you know, I found out driving sex slave markets in which young men were being raped and forced to live in sexual slavery and adequate housing Berkeley, no medical care. Now, I don't think they had a doctor on the staff, um, at that time, you know, so those were the kind of conditions that you know, I found when I went, but this you know, you know, this I was a different person this time, you know, I mean, I John Black Panther Party, I'd embraced the values and principles of the Black Panther Party, and when I knew that I was gone Angola, you know, the brother that was in leadership, New Orleans chapter, which I joined the Black Panther Party, you know, his instruction was, you know, educate, agitate, cause positive change. So, you know, that's basically what I did, you know, and it was so strange because when I first got to Angola, most of the guys knew me from what we call a game, you know, the hustle thing, you know, and I have established you know, pretty good reputation(30:00) you know, and so in a strange way that allowed me to be able to go in and talk about, you know, social revolution and the Black Panther Party and stuff. Because, you know, guys at first it thought it was like, I was running game, you know, I was it was a game, you know but after a while, you know, you know, the image and kind way I conducted myself and a lot of stuff that I was known for, you know, I wasn't participating in it and stuff, you know, so that kind of gave me an open it gave me opportunity where people would at least listen to what I want to say what I had to say. And so that, you know, for once being a street criminal worked to my advantage, you know, because it gave me an opportunity, you know, I had gone have enough respect where guys were they at least, you know, and you know why it says in some cases, and some cases guys, like, you know, I don't want you that I'm into that, you know?

 

Professor Guild: You had been in prison once and then in Louisiana, and then that was released and then you escaped essentially right and made your way to New York. Is that is that right? And came--

 

Albert: Well, Yeah, you know, I was convicted for armed robbery charge in '69. And they, umm, I was sentenced to 50 years, I escaped. And during my criminal life I had been been to Harlem, New York, you know, for drugs and stuff like that. So I knew Harlem so you know, when I escape eventually I made my way to New York and went to Harlem, but this is a different Harlem and this time, you know, the Black Panther Party had established itself in the community and you know, I saw you know, brother and sister moving around and community escort and senior citizens, the whole environment, the atmosphere of the Harlem(32:00) was different you know instead of doggy dog type atmosphere one was was you know had the attitude looking out for each other helping each other and so you know that was my voice close it up counter you know encounter with with the party you know I had a periphery air by who didn't know about the party you know which are further you know to the Panthers as you know who didn't know about them they may day they kind of like exploded upon on America exploded upon the world the audacity the determination, the courage they shield and you know I had always been used to seeing you that fear and African Americans from, from the street hustler to the law you're the or the doctor whatever you know they were always seen. You could always sense that fear right but still right below the surface, you know that even that they had accomplished things that had been denied them for so long they still in eyes of America had no no no sense of self-worth and no value. And but not, you know, when when I saw the Panthers, it was like, Whoa, you know, I mean, these brothers and sister didn't show no fear, you know, and they and they were so proud, you know, and that was something else I wasn't a custom to, you know, CNN African American, that pride that went beyond anything that I'd ever encountered before. And so, you know, and of course, the sisters, you know, that was my first interest, you know, D sisters was so beautiful, you know, and of course, later on I come to understand that the beauty that was impressing me was not the physical beauty. It was the inner beauty with the beauty, you know, of self-awareness of who they were and 

(34:00)

 uh, had a purpose. You know, I realized that the value that they had as-as, you know, as women and as, uh, uh, African-American, uh, descendants, you know. .And so, you know, it was quite an experience.

 

Professor Guild: Where you immediately drawn to-- I mean, they obviously made a strong impression on you, you know, from the beginning. You talked about being in Harlem and seeing this-this new Harlem and the lack of fear, but were you drawn in the sense of wanting to join right away or was that more of, uh, a-a process?

 

Albert: Yeah, I was-- I was still not really-- yeah.

 

Professor Guild: Alright. So, how did your-your consciousness change over this period?

 

Albert: Well, eventually, I was arrested of a bogus charge and the extradition warrant, uh, you know, fail. Once they take your fingerprints, well, the you know uh, the trial that-that-that clearly I was originally arrested for, you know, I was found not guilty, uh, by jury. And-- but the extradition warrant, but while I was in, uh, is called the Tombs Manhattan House of Detention and, uh, the panther 21 event had occurred. And so out, they put for the path of members on the T-hour zone. And, you know, they came in and, you know,  still have the usual activities. 

 

Professor Guild: Mm-hmm.

 

Albert: You know, these brothers come in and was talking about social revolution, and taking control of the black community, and-and-and serving the people and stuff. And, you know, I-I-I was-- I was, you know, I was listening to what they were saying, but I wasn't hearing it. You know, I was still in that state of mind, you know, hustler, you know, petty criminal, you know. And, uh, guy came now from upstate New York, I think it was from Dannemora Prison, and he was trying to give back of 25 to a life sentence. And you know, so, you know, we started talking, we were in the same cell together. And, uh, so, he gave me a book, you know, called a Different Drummer. And, you know, that book was probably the 40 step and me,

(36:00)

 -- the journey I'm still traveling now. Because that book, I was-- it was a fictional piece of work based upon the actual migration of African-Americans from the south to other, excuse me, other parts of the country. And, um, what I learned was that one person can make a change, you know, can make a difference, you know. And, I had never felt that before. I had either, you know, either just and think never felt that African-Americans would ever have a chance, or they could ever change what was happening to us as a people and as individuals. And so, you know, that book-- so what-- the next after reading that book--

 

Professor Guild: And this is one of the first books, this William Kelley Novel--

 

Albert: Yeah.

 

Professor Guild: --what different, when the first books- 

 

Albert: Yeah, different cover.

 

Professor Guild: --you've read cover to cover, you said,

 

Albert: Yeah, on and, yeah it was.

 

Professor Guild: Yeah.

 

Albert: You know, the second book was, uh, Wretched of the Earth

 

Professor Guild: Frantz Fanon. 

 

Albert: --from Frantz Fanon, yeah. 

 

Professor Guild: Mm-hmm.

 

Albert: And, but, umm, you know, so when I went to the next, you know, they used to the other side to cell and hang around the day room, and that's why, you know,  pads are used to have whole what we call political classes, you know.  So all of a sudden, I s-- I started-- stopped listening to what this was saying, and I started hearing what they were saying. You know, I began, I guess you could say, that was my earliest stage of, uh, uh, of consciousness where I became aware of that, you know, uh,  the reason I was in prison was not because of me. It was because of a premeditated systematic, uh, economic, political and social system that had decided that you know, my work would best be recognized as a prisoner, rather than, you know, a member of society.

 

Professor Guild: So eventually, you're extradited back to-- back to Louisiana and-and end up in Angola. And who is Herman Wallace, and where do you encounter him in this story?

 

Albert: I mean, Herman Wallace, uh, who eventually became one of you know, my best friend along the Robert King, and-and-and a member of the party. I mean, he was just like I was, he was a product of the, you know, 

(38:00)

 --of-of racism in America. He was a street hustler, you know, fell under the influence of the Black Panther Party, you know? You know, the party, you know, I always tell people that, you know, uh, the-the voice of the street was louder than my mouths. And believe me, she screamed at the top of voice, you know, to try to protect me from what she knew was out there. And, the voice of the Black Panther Party was stronger than the voice of the street. You know, they-they see it things and that I wasn't aware existed in me then. So, they are walk-on things and immediately gave me a level of consciousness and is they gave me, uh, you know, the motivation to start trying to-to think for myself, try to understand my situation and why, you know, I was in it. And-and so, that was a copy up the hand, and you know, to my knowledge, and no other political organization with except a portion in prison and say, "You know, you have a value and you have something to contribute," And allow you to, you know, to become a part of that organization. And that was, you know, another thing that truly impressed me about, you know, uh, the attitude of the Black Panther Party.

 

Professor Guild: And so, you and Harmon Wallace and later on Robert King joined together, form this-this chapter essentially start organizing all the prisoners?

 

Albert: Well, King had been transferred to Angola, so, you know, Harmon when King was transferred, we were all-- Ramallah had already been, uh, found stabbed to death, and Harmon and I were in CCR. So while we were in population, a-a-and, you know, amongst--

 

Professor Guild: The general population.

 

Albert: Yeah, the general population was when Harmon and I are, you know, following the chapter, the Black Panther Party.

 

Professor Guild: And so what were some of the issues and the ways that you went about organizing your fellow prisoners at that time?

 

Albert: Well, Angola was, uh, open is segregated races. And, um, the, uh, 

(40:00)

 --security people, administrated people use that to keep African-American prisoners and white prisoners for coming together, inadequate living conditions, uh, inadequate food. You know, we used to see the uhh, food trucks come in and deliver food for the population, and they would bring stuff like chicken and pork chops and all that. And we would go down and eat and we will be getting baloney. You know, and so, and how they laughed--

 

Professor Guild: So, the question is where-where is the food gone?

 

Albert: Yeah all-- yeah, all day long, but we know where I work. We see these security people all day long leaving out the warehouse, which is located behind the dine-dining hall, with boxes on their shoulders this stuff. So, we know where it was gone. 

 

Professor Guild:: Mm-hmm.

 

Albert: You know, you just know by had the courage to say anything about it, or do anything about it, you know. So that was-- we organize against that, uh, you know, we organized against, uh, the security having, uh, supreme power to beat brutalize and sometimes, you know, murder, uh, prisoners, you know. And, uh, you know, uh, inadequate, you know, living conditions, the dormitories were filthy. They had no screen-- no screens on the windows and stuff. Or you went out in the field, you're worried all mostly all the blacks worked in the field. You know, all the white printers had a job like clerks and staff, uh, you know, librarians, whatever, you know. And blacks are relegated to the-the farm lives, and they were forward to. And then you go out, and you don't have the proper tools to, you know, do the really agricultural work that was, uh, demanded of you as a prisoner, you know. And so, those were the type of things who we started to organize against, you know. 

 

Professor Guild: And what was the response of the present administration to-to the kind of organizing work?

 

Albert: You know, it was so strange. I don't think we the last as long as we last, but there was an internal battle going on. They had a woman named Millen Hant, 

(42:00)

--who is the first female's, a Secretary of Department of Correction or DOC. And she was trying to clean up a break the whole that these families had on Angola from child slavery. And so she brought in s-some people from outside and warden name Henderson, and here, in turn, brought some people in. And so you had this battle going on between, uh, the families that born and raised and lived on Angola, against the people who was brought in. So, by them, you know, uh, trying to, you know, win control of the prison, that gave us an opportunity. You know, we kind of like slipped in between all of that. And so we were able to do a lot of stuff, uh, you know, and until Brent Miller was found on-on front stabbed to dead in-in one of the housing unit. 

 

Professor Guild: So April 17, 1972, right? 

 

Albert: Yeah.

 

Professor Guild: And the day that changes the course of your life in some-- in some really fundamental way. Tell me about that day.

 

Albert: Well, you know, that morning, we got up like any morning and-and when the dining hall. I knew we weren't going to eat because I have organized the strike that was taking place that morning. You know, the guy that worked in the-- in the-- in the dining hall are refused to feed it, anybody, because they was working like 16 hours a day, seven days a week. I, you know, being at work, I work in the dining hall, but I worked in the back part, the kitchen part where they prepared the food and stuff. So, you know, I had an opportunity to talk to the guys 'cos they was always complaining and, you know, and moaning and stuff about, you know.  And I'm like, "Well, do something about it. You know, y'all don't have to do, you know, do this, you know." And, so, you know, they're like, "What-what can we do?" And I'm like, "Well, you can-- you can-- you can demand change, you can demand show the work and days, you know, or the every hours and work one day on, one day off. You know, you can demand that you know?" And like, "Man, these people--" and I'm like, "Well, you know, just can't let these people at have their way all the time, you know." And so eventually, you know,

(44:00)

--I help organize a word what they would, you know, they call it a strike, we call it a work stoppage. 

 

Professor Guild: Mm-hmm.

 

Albert: You know. So that morning, when we got to the, uh, the security gate to get to the dining hall, and all the prisoners were bunched up there, you know, and he was like, "Man, you got a strike going on, and you know, they won't feed nobody." and stuff. So, the back to the we all are told to go back to the dormitories. And that all we did and I think I lay down and I'm at, you know, of took a nap, I'm not sure how long. And then, uh, I was-- I was awakened, you know, with the whistle were blown and everybody, you know, when they weren't saying everybody was saying, "Oh, you nigger mother fuckers catch the walk blog." And so I'm like, you know, I'd never seen this kind of, you know, you could see, you could sense there was something different in the air. You could sense  a certain fear--

 

Professor Guild: Mm-hmm. 

 

Albert: --even though they were, you know, cursing and-and-and-and badgering and threatening up black prisoners, you could also hear that little fear. And so we were all made to come out the dormitories and line up, and move towards the-the front of part of the walkway. And you know, a-as you going down the line, the ward start drifting back. You know, they found us-- they found out where the time they were using them was freemen, they found a freeman stabbed to death in pine unit. Yeah. So, you know, all, yeah, all the black prisoner. They didn't even-- they used took the white prisoners and made them set out on the yard, you know, give just black prisoners, all the black prisoners on the wall. And you had to go up and go into what we call the clothing room and be interrogated, you know. And as soon as I walked in, you know, one of the Sheriff put a gun in my face, and threaten me and when to call me nigger and tell me, you know, if-if I say-say something, he'll blow my fucking brains out with this exact words. You know-- 

(46:00)

--you panthers think, y'all running some y'all ain't running nothing, you know, blah, blah, y'all kill that man." So, I'm like, "Man I get that gun out on my face?" You know? I mean, I was scared shitlist, but I won't want let them see it. You know, and I'm like, "Man, you know, get that gun on my face, you know." And, "What you tell mother-- you know?" "I had nothing to do with no freemen being killed, you know?" And-- 

 

Professor Guild: How old-- how old are you?

 

Albert: About 22, you know.

 

Professor Guild: Mm-hmm.

 

Albert: And you know, I did see a house piss and vinegar at the time, you know.

 

Professor Guild: [chuckles]

 

Albert:  And so, you know, they, uhh, made me strip, uh, took all my clothes and stuff to it over and gave me a ragged jumpsuit and said, "You know, put his ass in a dungeon. " You know, and all and so, uh, one of the guards, two of them, they march me from the clothing room to the dungeon, you know, one of them had a Thompson machine gun. And, you know, the whole while they were saying like, you know, I-I actually thought, you know, they were going to kill me, 'cos they kept saying, "Go it on, run, run, you know, a day, you know, run, you know, say something, you know." So, I'll just like walking, you know, at any minute, I you know, just thought they were going to start shooting you know. So, they put me in a dungeon, they didn't put me on a dormitory with the rest of the guy, They put me in the shower, and they locked the-the gate. And the shower was like a big sale where you can open the closed the door. And so they put me in there. And, uh, I could hear them bringing guys and-and they were just beating guys. And guys were like pleading and begging, you know, and I was sitting now. And, you know, there was a certain amount of fear, but there was also some amount of anger at the way these men were being reduced to virtually, you know, uh, begging for their lives and-and begging not to be kicked or stoned or beating-- beating you know. And so, any Battler and Miller brothers came up, you know, and so our nigger--

 

Professor Guild: A brothers of the-- of the-the guard was killed, okay. Mm-hmm

 

Albert: The guard that was on front on,  they-- yeah it was about three or four-- 

(48:00)

--along with some other security guard. And it came up and I could hear him coming up. And it was saying, "you know, we were going to stone that nigger to dead, blah, blah, blah." So when I got my hand, I was in the shower, like I said by myself, and it was like, you know, calling me all kinds of derogatory races name and dragged him and stuff. And one of the one of the Miller brothers name Nicks he told officer who was working a tier open the shower. So like, you know, I kind of like brace myself and I'm like, whatever happened, it happened. I'm not I'm not going back down from these people, you know? And so the guy who's running in tiers said "I'm not opening that shower." You know, If you all want the keys here the keys Yeah, but I'm not opening it. And so one-one-one of the Nicks Miller brothers went over there and got the key and as soon as he got the keys, what we call it rank, you know, the majors and stuff, you know, they some of them came in, and they like "Nicks Miller what the fuck are you doing with this dog in and out, blah," you know, "All you motherfuckers get out of here." you know, and so you know, we laid it all find out that Harrison who was the warden and found out what was going on, I don't know how maybe somebody called his office or whatever and he sat down now you know, and so they made all of them leave and what all that you know, I stayed in until to the next day but all true that that day and at night you know they were just bringing guys and and you know you hear, you hear the door open downstairs because we want opportunity and then you hear the blows you know, where they were beating stomping guys and calling them all kind of racist derogatory names and making them "don't walk up the stairs crawl up the stairs, your dog," you know, stuff like that. Yeah, you know, and making them crawled on a tier and you know kicking them and you know, just total total-- 

(50:00)

--you know, a terror you know. 

 

Professor Guild: So eventually you are convicted and Brent Miller's murder you and you and Herman Wallace correct? 

 

Albert: Yes.

 

Professor Guild:  And that lands you in CCR close to restriction--?

 

Albert:-- I was put in the CCR the next April 18, 1972. And, you know, while we were in South Carolina confinement, you know, the legal proceedings, eventually they indicted us and you know, the arraignment and all that took place, change of venue.

 

Professor Guild: And when you first went into solitary, what did you think what it would-- What did you experience?

 

Albert: Fear.

 

Professor Guild: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

 

Albert: Fear, but all you know, the combination of fear the unknown, there was also a combination of anger and and determination. And you know, remembering who I was remembering, you know, that I was a path that I had the obligation and the responsibility the uphold the principles of the party, and I had to be strong.

 

Professor Guild: So how did you go about doing that while you were in solitary, upholding those principles, living those principles? What did that mean for you?

 

Albert: Well, you know, those, CCR a solitary, maybe unique in the sense that the cells were not totally concrete cells, they had a boss system at the front of the cell. And so you could talk to all the guys and you know, guys haul up and not until stuff like it, yes, you're able to communicate now is the most important day. I mean, communication.

 

Professor Guild: And you would get out for an hour, once a day. And that would also allow you to walk around and talk talk to people?

 

Albert: Yeah. Well, as you know, at that time, they had a posse of CCR, they used to lead the whole chair, in the morning for chow, and you had 15 guys on a tier he had to because of the protests and their resistance, we start organizing against certain conditions and, and beatings and stuff, they start making you come out one man at a time,

(52:00)

--you know, because they saw that they were straining numbers. They were having problems and the whole CCR. And so they they cut it down to one man.

 

Professor Guild: And what was your contact like with with your family with maybe former Panthers, other other folks in the so called outside world? And in the 1970s? Let's say?

 

Albert: Well, I was one of the lucky ones who family still, you know, was there still supported me. I got visitors, you know, from my mom and my sisters and brothers and, and and as the party, you know, party members. It was difficult because they wouldn't approve any among our visiting days. And you know, but you know, they used to write and stuff and eventually some, you know, get on our vid and this and they would come visit? And you know, and they would start to the form, what would you call the support Committee. The purpose was to raise funds for lawyers, and investigators and stuff. And we regularly- we find out later on that the FBI had infiltrated the support committee and the woman name I think her name was Jill Schaefer, can't think the husband name, but there is their main thing was the sabotage events to raise money to hire attorneys to hire private investigators. And hindsight, you know, I always tell people, as I look back, there was absolutely nothing could have stopped us from being convicted. I mean, Brent Miller, you know, all we use that now Brent Miller could have come now from heaven with wings and halo and got on the stand and say, "this, this man did not have anything to do with my dad", and it wouldn't have made any difference. You know, you got the height of the civil rights movement going on in a country, you got uprisings in African American communities and other minority communities, even poor whites. You know, we're fighting for human rights--

(54:00)

--civil rights, legal rights, you know, so the attitude of white America at that time was, you know, it just wouldn't have made a difference. You know?

 

Professor Guild: And so that initial support committee mentally falls apart, would you say? 

 

[crosstalk]

 

Albert: --like this so complicated. 

 

Professor Guild: Yeah.

 

Albert: As everyone know, you had a split in a party between here in Newton in Eldridge Cleaver. So people want to take in size chapters want to take in size, you know? So and here in Newton was moving chapters around the country, Eldridge Cleaver was directing chapters. And so you know, you had these cons, so in the middle of that, it kind of like, they took the chapter, New Orleans chapter, who was one of the strongest chapters in a party and move them to California. And they sent the chapter there from somewhere, didn't know, the community didn't know, you know, the culture. And so they couldn't garner the support from the community, as the reading your chapter, the Black Panther Party was, and so eventually, you know, after raise money, and hire lawyers and all that kind of just, like disappeared, and we wind up being stuck with state lawyers.

 

Professor Guild: Can you write in the book about feeling a profound sense of sort of abandonment or loneliness during during this period, when when all this, you know, infighting is happening within the party, and the support that you had, at least initially then sort of falls falls by the wayside? And you're just, you're just left there?

 

Albert: Yeah, you know, we, we all three of us fail. But we also have, you know, we talked about this to letters and stuff. And we had dedicated our lives to social struggle, the party was a vehicle, you know, and so with or without the party, that commitment remain, and that dedication remain, and that willingness-- 

(56:00)

--to sacrifice, even the ultimate sacrifice he, if it came to that, you know, and so, wow, you know, we didn't have a cause for we could have had I should have had from the party, we just did the best we could get organized and and and, and, and lead protest against conditions, you know, both physical conditions and, and, and treatment by prison guard is better than inmate guard at that time at inmate guard system. So you know, that, you know, but yeah, I mean, the sense of abandonment was, you know, it was so deep, you know, so painful, you know, but it didn't, it didn't for one a moment make me you know, not want to be a social activist, revolutionary.

 

Professor Guild: And you all supported each other you, Herman and King.

 

Albert: That was private uh, highlight of everything all party for a year, there was the friendship, and bond, the friendship that was formed between the 3 of us, you know, I think by understanding this is unique, you know?

 

Professor Guild: There were times when you all weren't living in the same on the same tier. And sometimes you were not even in the same institution towards the towards the latter part of yesterday, you and Herman in particular, it was separate.

 

Albert: Well, they put King on a tier with me eventually. And we stayed on a tier from, I don't know, for over 10 years. But Herman they had to have an order from the court that we will never be it never to be housed together on the same tier, didn't see our lawyers at the same time. And but, you know, like I see, you know, they see, you know, where theres a will, theres a way. So, you know, a lot of the guys who weren't get all their prisoners, you know, they had a lot of respect for what we were doing, and what we're trying to do. So that made it possible for us to get nose to one another, and others, you know, and we had-- 

(58:00)

-- our own little code we develop, you know, and so we were able to stay in close contact, you know, we had this saying, you know, separated but never apart, never touching, but always connected, you know, and so we kind of like, an old decades, we you know, I think, you know, my relationship with King who's still alive, we lost Herman three days after he won his freedom. Uhm, but you know, I just can't think of, you know, anything greater than that friendship. And Robin, I remained close. And, you know six, seven months ago, he moved from Austin Texas, back Louisiana. And so we spend time together, we talk a lot on the phone, we traveled around America and outside the country, you know, talking about solitary and prison and legalized slavery under the 13th amendment and, and just issues, social issue, prison issues, you know, whatever, whatever, you know, people we in front of and, you know, we inculcated into our sessions, Q and A, because we felt as though you know, as good as it is good and fine and good to go down and speak with, to people and before people, but how much of what they want to hear talk about, or whatever is being lost. So we started the Q and A, and we were surprised at how, you know, people responded to it.

 

Professor Guild: So in the in the late 90s, early 2000s, as the sort of word of your of your cases sort of got out again, or started to circulate again, and the support started to build up. And that grew into an international support committee to free the Angola three, as a noted, Robert King one is released in 2001. Herman Wallace in 2013, although he unfortunately passed away just a few days later, and then finally, February of 2016,

(60:00)

--you yourself, were able to walk out of prison, what was on your mind as you as you prepared to make the transition to walk out? Um, what were what were your priorities, what was most important to you, as you getting ready to leave?

 

Albert: Um that grieve and say goodbye to my mom, I've been denied that. And, you know, as you know, an African American culture that's very important to be able to say the final goodbye, you know, and I was denied the right and not only my mom, but my sisters were to say that final goodbye. So I always see that when I go free, the floor is born, I want to lift all my shoulders is to be able to go to my mom and tell her how much I love and missed her, and, and, and, you know, in my heart, and in my soul, say goodbye. And so that's, you know?

 

Professor Guild: And so you you are welcomed, and when you came out by your brother, Michael, you went to live with him initially. At what point did you decide to write a book?

 

Albert: Well, I wanted to write a book when I was in prison. 

 

Professor Guild: Yeah.

 

Albert: Yeah. You know, I mean, I wasn't clear on why, but it was just this need in me, you know, and it was so strange, because over the decades, I had accumulated a lot of, you know, notes to myself, and, and, and, and writing about events that happen, and stuff, you know, and so I was able to sneak them out of prison to my brother, and he was about three or four boxes, you know, and he went somewhere and went to the neighborhood and went by somebody's house or something, and he come back, and the call was set, and I'll send the blocks, you know, so, all that was, was gone. You know, eventually i began to understand that, I can only do so many interviews, and I can only be at one place at a time, this book was meant to be an extension of me, my experiences, my, 

(62:00)

--you know, my my reasons for, you know, changing my life, you know, becoming, you know, more humane and becoming revolutionary, and my thoughts and activities, and, you know, profound love for myself as an individual, but for my people, as a part of the human race for African American people. And, you know, that's pretty much you know, still with me, you know, I'm I've been out now the lower three years, my passion for, you know, what I'm doing has an better thing and has gotten strong, but this book, it is my voice around the world. That's what the book does, it gives me an opportunity to talk to people who I will never see never be able to go in front of, you know, so hopefully, you know, they're suddenly I see some experience, you know, I've always believed that in life, not always, but the gradually, I come to understand that in life, there's always an individual, or an event that raises your level of consciousness. If your level of consciousness is raised in you, you can never go back the way you were. And so that I hopefully, that's what this book does, you know, it raises the level of conscious of the people who read it.

 

Professor Guild: The book is absolutely a gift as powerful. And um, it's really challenged as all of us to think about why it is that we allow these kinds of conditions to happen in our name, right to continue not only in the United States, but around the world. You call it a story of transformation that hope, as we close out here, I wonder what gives you hope now at age 72?

 

Albert:  Humanity, you know, my fight is for the better build humanity. And if I can help, if I can see or do something that cause human beings to change the way they think the way they act, then you know, eventually a better society will come from that, you know, I got I have full beautiful,-- 

(64:00)

--great grandkids, and I don't want one of them all four of them 30 years from now, to be sentenced in someone's office or studio or whatever, talking about the same issues. That was the one thing that was a shock to me. You know, I spent 44 years and 10 months in solitary confinement. And when I won my freedom, everybody was asking me about what I changed, but based upon my observation, and my intuition and stuff, nothin in there changed, the only thing that they change was they invented and creation of technology. But the hardcore racism was still him. It was just below the surface. And it's still the brutality of the language that will use was not ahead, codes, nice coded words they use, but they meant the same thing to me, the pain was just as, as real as it was when you know, I left the street at 22 years old, you know, and, you know, there were times when I, you know, asked myself, "am I-- is my analysis correct? Am I seeing this right? Am I--" you know, feeling, you know, that was really good this part. And then, you know, Donald Trump gets select, and, and, and a crazy weird, kind of like, you're right, you know, you're right, only the thing that you sense and felt, could allow a man like that to become the president of the United States.

 

Professor Guild: Well, we thank you so much for writing this book, because I know it's a challenging book and something that you wanted to do for a long time, clearly, but I know it wasn't easy given given your experiences and the things you had to revisit, but we appreciate the the care and just the total dedication to the cause that comes through in your example and in your life and the life of Herman Wallace and Robert King and what you give to us in this book, and we thank you for joining us on the podcast.

 

Albert: Thank you for giving me an opportunity.

 

Professor Guild: We appreciate you. 

(66:00) 

 

Eddie: That concludes Episode 18 of African-American Studies at Princeton University. We are grateful to have with us Albert Woodfox and our colleagues Joshua Guild and Autumn Womack, but before we close, here are a few upcoming events. There's the thrive conference celebrating and empowering Princeton's black alumni that will be between October 3rd and October 5th. There's an extraordinary conversation between Naomi Klein and Ganga Yamato Taylor on the climate crisis next Tuesday, October 1st, 7 pm, at 7 pm in Richardson auditorium, and then of course there's the African-American students faculty graduate seminar, untitled Black Design History; Theory and Practice. We have Thea Blassingame blessing on Wednesday, October 2nd at 4:30 and Jerome Harris on Wednesday, October 23rd, at 4:30 right here in San Paul. For more information on these programs and more visit aas.princeton.edu. We wish to thank Courtney Brian for providing the music for the show. And as always, to the staff, the Department of African American Studies at Princeton, our departmental manager April Peters, my assistant and if coordinator Dionne Worthy our department assistant Jana Johnson, our Communications and Media Specialist Anthony Gibbons and our technical support specialist and audio engineer Elio Leo, thank you so much for listening. We'll see you again next month.

 

[END]

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