Solitary by Albert Woodfox


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 sy...

Details Solitary

Release DateMar 5th, 2019
PublisherGrove Press
GenreNonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Biography, Race, Politics, Law, History

Reviews Solitary

  • Richard
    Solitary by Albert Woodfox is a gruelling but rewarding work of non fiction. In and out of jail as a young black man in the late 60s, Woodfox had a troubled start to manhood. A start he isn’t proud of. His fractured family was poor and life in urban Louisiana was hard. Racism was endemic and unquestioned.When he finally ended up in the notorious Angola prison in 1969, on a very questionable charge of armed robbery, he was in for the long haul. ...
  • Moonkiszt
    Some books are written by authors who yearn for the title, the mantle and all the goodies that go with the title of Author. Some tomes are acts of persuasion, beckoning conversion from one point of view to another. Some volumes are slick and polished marketing or branding materials for products or lifestyles or team-building manuals. And then there are some books that simply spill out; spill out from the lives of humans who are desperate to tell ...
  • Calzean
    Yikes what an indictment of the US legal and prison system. This is a book on many of the things wrong with the Land of the Brave. It is not much of an endorsement. Woodfox's experiences in the aptly named prison Angola, Louisiana. It read like a war zone, ruled by despots with all the accompanying violence, rape, racism, corruptness and hopelessness. But Woodfox finds hope and strength in his adoption of Black Panther ideals of unity, helping ot...
  • Mehrsa
    Our prison system is cruel and inhumane. This book is one of the best prison memoirs I've ever read (exempting Mandela and Assata). Woodfox's book is not just about his experiences, but it is about the system in general and how it tried to diminish his dignity. He reclaimed it by joining the Black Panthers and organizing his prison to fight rape and other degrading things that the guards allowed. This book made me really depressed that we do this...
  • Lou
    “Our resistance gave us an identity. Our identity gave us strength. Our strength gave us an unbreakable will.”-Albert Woodfox“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”—Frederick Douglass“[If ] any white man in the world says ‘Give me liberty...
  • Brian Wraight
    Please just read it. Woodfox isn’t the first person to suffer at the hands of America’s broken criminal justice system and, as long as the prison industrial complex and systemic racism continue to chug along and get away with it, he most certainly won’t be the last. Yes, he’s one of many. Yes, it’s a story that we’ve heard before. And that’s exactly why his story is important and needs to be told.
  • Donna Lewis
    This is an incredible book. Albert Woodfox grew up in a poor section of New Orleans. In the 50s and 60s, he was a petty criminal. Arrested as a teenager, he spent time in four different prisons before being exposed to the Black Panthers, who taught him that “you don’t fight fire with fire, you fight fire with water.” He learned how to not give in to fear. Along with two other Angola inmates (Herman and King) he focused on passive resistance...
  • Niklas Pivic
    When Albert Woodfox was incarcerated and sentenced to quite a stretch in jail, he didn't know what to think, really; he was a teenager who'd got muddled up in basic criminal teenage stuff.One of Woodfox's great strengths is his ability to express himself straightforwardly, without mucking up a line. As here:The first time I was called a nigger by a white person I was around 12. I was waiting with dozens of other kids at the end of the Mardi Gras ...
  • Suzanne
    Some books we read to bear witness; to acknowledge the pain and suffering our country causes her own citizens to bear. Albert Woodcox was sent to prison, once there his life became a living hell. Accused of a crime there that he did not commit, he was held in solitary confinement for decades. Decades. This book explains his experience and the struggle for his release. Prison reform is but the tip of the iceberg in the change needed to rectify wha...
  • Melissa Luna
    This is the story of the Angola 3, who spent decades in solitary confinement in a slave plantation-turned-prison in Louisiana. Beneath the word SOLITARY, I see the word SOLIDARITY. Solidarity between the three men who were moved by the black panther party in the late sixties to change their lives and the lives of those around them. Solidarity in the struggle for survival and human rights against all odds, solidarity between these prisoners and th...
  • Karen Ashmore
    A very hard to read book. It starts out with his life in crime as a petty thief, then druggie, then armed robbery. Then went on to describe the injustices of the criminal justice and prison system. And the horrors of Angola, the worst prison in the US, located in the backwards state of Louisiana. All very hard to read. It is amazing that he was able to keep his head up and become a crusader for criminal justice reform.
  • Meg Marie
    Proof that slavery is alive and well in modern day America, and how unjust the system can be. I found this unbelievably sad and moving.
  • Kerisa Coleman
    From the moment I picked up this book to this very moment, I was enthralled by the harsh realities of the U.S. criminal justice system, both past and current. Albert Woodfox adopted many principles of manhood and how he managed to hold onto his values, beliefs and convictions all those many years is something I can’t even fathom. Prison reform is a must. Having worked in the federal prison system for a number of years, I’m privy to the maltre...
  • Marika
    Albert Woodfox, holds the record for being the held in solitary confinement prisoner in the US. 43 years. Let that sink in. To stay sane, he made a vow with 2 other prisoners, who became known as the Angola Three, that they would remain strong and grow as men despite the obvious injustice and torture. Author Albert Woodfox has done the remarkable. It's almost as if he is sitting next to you on a park bench relating his story in a calm, measured w...
  • David
    An important book with great significance for our times. It should be on everyone's 'must read' list. You should be aware, however, it will not entertain. It will enlighten, enrage and enrich.
  • Florine
    Amazing memoir! I've still have tears rolling down my face. I am in awe of this man's mental strength and integrity, despite all the violence, humiliation and loss he faced over the years. Yes, he committed crimes that sent him to jail in the first place, but then COINTELPRO took care of him, framed him and tried to break him.I'm more enraged and disgusted by the judicial system than ever. In addition to the deplorable and inhumane conditions of ...
  • Kimberlee (reading.wanderwoman)
    "After years in prison in solitary confinement, I experienced all the emotions the Louisiana department of Public Safety and Corrections wanted from me - anger, bitterness, the thirst to see someone suffer the way I was suffering, the revenge factor, all that. But I also became something they didn't want or expect - self-educated. I could lose myself in a book. Reading was a bright spot for me. Reading was my salvation." "The need to be treated ...
  • Jeff
    In 2016, I had the privilege to meet and have lunch with Albert Woodfox and Robert King at the International Conference on the Prolonged Use of Solitary Confinement at University of Pittsburgh Law School. It had only been a few months since Mr Woodfox had been released from 44 years of solitary, more than any other human being in the history of the world. He was obviously stunned by his newly won freedom after so much extreme confinement, but his...
  • John K
    Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela, Albert Woodfox... The fact that conditions like this exist in America should give all of us reason to pause. 35 years ago I read Malcolm's book and today after reading Albert's book I am back to where I was 35 years ago. In 2019 we are still wrestling with the fear of the other. There is nothing else to say. It is hard to stand up and be proud of this as an American. I am proud of what we can become, regardless of how d...
  • Roger Smitter
    Author Albert Woodfox is a person who was in solitary confinement for an unbelievable four decades for a killing he didn’t do. His book speaks to the issues we struggle with in our society: What is punishment? When punishment enough? When it should be over? How reliable is the justice system to ensure the person who did the crime is the person who gets the time. Most important, the author speaks to his 40+ years in prison in language that has l...
  • Erok
    This book will destroy you, inspire you, privilege check you, make you cry, and both give you hope as well as dread for humanity. The amount Woodfox endured during his 40ish years of solitary is hard to comprehend. The book starts out like a candle, but slowly builds into an inferno as you get deeper into both his case and his life in solitary. On top of that it shows the effectiveness, if that’s the right word, for public campaigns for justice...
  • Jennie Wellman
    Sometimes I'm nervous to read books about social justice issues. Sometimes, maybe too often, books on social justice issues end with a bootstraps narrative. I understand why- it's more palatable to audiences. But Woodfox doesn't provide a bootstraps narrative in this book. Woodfox uses personal experience, philosophy, social science, and analysis to look at the ideology and hegemony that allows for atrocities like what happened to the Angola Four...
  • Lisa Miller
    This is a gut-wrenching book. Albert Woodfox was incarcerated for 44 years and finally released in 2016. His early years are hard to read about because of his criminality but also because of his environment. The brutality of police and jail officials, the lack of ethics and integrity in the judiciary were appalling even before he got to Angola. What he and many others experienced there is beyond belief. We citizens are all culpable. We elect judg...
  • Gail
    I spent the first bit of this book wondering when I would start feeling empathy for his plight- he speaks so plainly and matter of factly about his (many) crimes, I didn’t think that jail would be an inappropriate consequence. But I only had to wait a bit, and the horrors of the injustices brought upon him (decades in solitary, clearly the victim of vendettas by wardens, etc) become inescapable. I admire his strength of spirit and am glad he su...
  • Franc Woods
    Heart wrenching story of Albert Woodfox and the Angola 3. How he survived the horror of 40+ years of solitary confinement is beyond belief. How a government that is part of this country could be so callous in its vengeful actions towards these men is unbelievable. My only criticism of this book came in epilog. Alberts one sided view, although understandable, is biased (black lives matter). All lives matter... black, white, yellow, brown, blue, po...
  • Slappy
    Wow. This is a book that will stay with you for a long time. 40 years in solitary confinement for a crime he didn't commit. A searing indictment of the systemic racism in the US justice system and the private prison complex. Woodfox names names: People like Anne Butler, who freely writes books which are reviewed on Goodreads, and openly lives in Louisiana, people like Buddy Caldwell, Bobby Jindal, all openly conspired to imprison and torture the ...
  • Sue Wakula
    A giant in chains shares how to hold on to your humanity when living in an absolutely inhumane world. His world was small, notorious Angola prison in Louisiana. Mr. Woodfox shows in graphic detail the greed of the prison-industrial complex and the dangers to everyone, but especially minorities, of for-profit prisons. Choose a side. Is the goal of prison rehabilitation or do you believe that torture and cruelty is the best way to enforce the Ameri...
  • Corinna
    This was a difficult book to read. He spends a lot of time describing the circumstances of his incarceration and the politics of Angola, which were fascinating. He spends very little time discussing the impact of this on him emotionally and psychologically , which is understandable, but made the normally personal form of the autobiography to feel less personal. Still, any way you slice it, this is a powerful read on the prison system, from the 60...
  • Amena Ahmad
    A captivating and enraging read about the story of a man who faced gross injustice and prejudice within the disgusting and corrupt prison system of America. If this book doesn't leave you angered and weeping and wanting to fight against the corrupt prison system and criminal "justice" system I'm not sure what will. It's a must read, a hard one, but a story about a beautiful resilient man whom we can all learn something from.