Sent to Angola Prison for armed robbery in 1971, Herman Wallace formed the Angola Chapter of the Black Panther Party along with Ronald Ailsworth, Albert Woodfox, and Gerald Bryant. Organizing to expose the segregation, corruption, and abuse in the former slave plantation, however, came at a price. In 1972, Wallace and Woodfox were falsely convicted of murdering a prison guard, a legal case that has been cited by Amnesty International as ‘unconstitutional.‘ Angola Prison warden Burl Cain feared Wallace “would organize the young new inmates,” and for the next 41 years Wallace was locked in solitary confinement.
In October of 2013, a federal judge declared Herman Wallace’s conviction unconstitutional. Three days after his release he passed away due to cancer. Two years before he was released, Wallace recorded the poem A Defined Voice:
Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox, and Robert King make up the Angola 3. The political prisoners were held in solitary confinement because of their activity in the Blank Panther Party within Angola Prison. Albert Woodfox is held in solitary confinement to this day, despite his case being overturned by the US District Court.
“As long as the people recognize the beauty of their human spirits and move against suppression and exploitation, they will be carrying out one of the most beautiful ideas of all time. Because the human whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. The ideas will always be among the people. The prison cannot be victorious because walls, bars and guards cannot conquer or hold down an idea.”
– Huey Newton