Herman is free

71-year old Herman, photographed last month in the prison hospital. © Amnesty International

UPDATE: After just days of freedom, Herman Wallace sadly passed away earlier today. Our only solace is that he died a free man. We’ve already received over 1,200 messages for Herman from you all. We’ll keep passing them all on to his family, loved ones, and the surviving Angola 3 members, Albert and Robert.

By Kim Manning-Cooper, Campaign Manager at Amnesty UK.

I’m writing the words I always hoped, but never thought, I would: Herman Wallace is a free man. He has been released from the Elaine Hunt Correctional Centre in Louisiana, after Judge Jackson, Louisiana’s district judge, overturned Herman’s 1974 conviction for the murder of prison officer Brent Miller.

Herman is free. Those words need repeating. He is free from the solitary cell in which he has sat for the most part of 41 years. Free from the single hour of recreation he would take when he could. Free from the confines of a 2×3 metre cell, free from a life without social interaction, free from prison.

This justice is bittersweet

Herman is free. But while we all celebrate this moment, and think of Herman finally getting justice, it is with a bittersweet taste. This has taken 41 years. For 41 years Herman and Albert Woodfox (who is still incarcerated in solitary confinement) have spent their time in conditions which can only be described as cruel, inhuman and degrading. They have lived in tiny cells for 23 hours a day, for 41 years. If the weather is fine, they would be allowed outside for an hour a day, alone, three times a week. Lone recreation. In a cage.

Herman and Albert’s time in solitary has been described by a Magistrate Judge as “durations so far beyond the pale’ she could not find ‘anything even remotely comparable in the annals of American jurisprudence”.

This also has a bittersweet taste because Herman Wallace is dying. He has advanced liver cancer and may have a matter of days to live. He may only get to sip freedom, rather than taste a gulp. His view of Baton Rouge would have been fleeting, through an ambulance window as he was taken to hospital – in a vehicle which stood outside Elaine Hunt Correctional Centre for hours as the State of Louisiana appeared to be doing whatever they could to keep a dying man incarcerated.

It is bittersweet because he will not get to walk down the streets on which he grew up, will not be able to sit in the New Orleans sun, will not get to finally see what freedom really looks like. Herman is now in hospital, his health worsening, and nearer to the end of his life.

Write a message to Herman’s loved ones.

Herman leaving prison for the hospital on Tuesday this week. © Angola 3 campaign

For 41 years all Herman would have seen from the inside of his cell was a small area just beyond the bars at the front. For 41 years he has slept on a mattress on a steel bed platform. For 41 years his natural light has been limited to a very small window at the back of his cell. Now, as he spends his days in his hospital bed, we can only hope that he is comfortable, and at ease. Herman is dying, but he knows he is free, he can finally feel freedom.

Herman IS free, and he will die a free man, he will die knowing that thousands of people around the world have linked their arms with his, and have stood up for all of the Angola 3 – for Herman, Albert and Robert – stood up for compassion, stood up for what is right and stood up for justice.

The Angola 3

When Herman was sent to Louisiana State Penitentiary – known as ‘Angola’ – in the 1970s, racism was rife. Inmates were racially segregated and guarded exclusively by white officers, as well as armed white immates. The culture of violence that infused prison life was reflected in the high numbers of murders inside, and a widespread use of sexual slavery among inmates.
 
It was in this toxic environment that Herman, along with fellow inmate Albert Woodfox, founded a prison chapter of the Black Panther Party (BPP). They were later joined by Robert King and together the three young black men campaigned for fair treatment and better conditions for inmates; racial solidarity between black and white inmates; and an end to the rape and sexual slavery.

They believe they were targeted for their political beliefs and membership of the BPP, and sent to solitary confinement. Robert King has said: “[Herman and Albert] tried to change conditions…the prison was considered the worst in the nation. They brought people together and brought in an ideology that said that despite the fact that you were prisoners, you still had some rights. Because of this, the administration saw them as being threats and they have paid dearly.”

Between them, Robert and Albert have spent more than 100 years in solitary. Robert King was freed in 2001. And, as of yesterday, Herman is free. Albert, sadly, remains in isolation to this day, despite no meaningful review of his incarceration.

Herman and Albert have indeed paid dearly, but for now, I hope we will hold Herman up in our thoughts, and know that he is a free man. Justice has been a long time coming, and while it comes late, we must all celebrate that is has come. Herman has won. A bittersweet victory, but a victory for justice nonetheless.

Herman is free.

Leave a message for Herman’s loved ones

Many of you have, over the years, stood beside Herman, Robert and Albert. It has meant the world to them to know that beyond their solitary cells, people care.

We’ve already received over 1,200 messages for Herman from you all. We’ll keep passing them all on to his family, loved ones, and the surviving Angola 3 members, Albert and Robert.

Read more

Justice deferred to the end (News story, 4 October 2013)

USA overturns conviction of terminally ill man held in isolation for over 41 years (News story, 1 October 2013)

Posted in Detention, USA | Tagged | 18 Comments

  1. Salman Mohd says:

    Nice : “Herman and Albert have indeed paid dearly, but for now, I hope we will hold Herman up in our thoughts, and know that he is a free man. Justice has been a long time coming, and while it comes late, we must all celebrate that is has come. Herman has won. A bittersweet victory, but a victory for justice nonetheless”

  2. jackie says:

    Dearest Herman, you are a profound supreme being. Nirvana awaits the greatest souls my friend.
    What a fight to deliver to the enemy, and won with pride and grace.
    You are a truly magnificent specimen of human rightiousness!

    Love and light sent to you xxxxxx jackie xxxxxxx

  3. Emmanuelle SUAT says:

    It’s late but you are free ! I am happy for you. Courage to fight against the disease, my thoughts accompany you.

  4. Katharina says:

    Dear Hermann,

    no human being should have to suffer like you did. I really hope that the doctors are wrong or a miracle happens or whatever so that you can enjoy freedom for a long time.

    All the best!

  5. J says:

    Wishing you all the best and know that we all stand behind you. Keep strong and you inspire us all – your life means something to us all.

  6. Elisa Vaudagna says:

    Hermann, te mando un abrazo muy grande desde Argentina. Quisiera dártelo personalmente y reconfortarte un poco. Mi solidaridad y mi afecto contigo!!!

  7. Jananthan says:

    Dear Hermann,

    Thanks for teaching us a lesson on courage.

    All the best!

  8. Leonor Gallardo says:

    A justiça é de Deus.
    La justicia es de Dios.
    Justice belongs to God.

  9. Annie says:

    You are uncommonly brave.
    Peace, Mr. Wallace.

  10. Karin Strasswimmer says:

    Dear Hermann,

    We have you in our thoughts since we heard about your tragic case. We wish we could do something against a system so cruel and against so much injustice.

    Our best wishes, Karin and Family

  11. Ay'sha Williams says:

    Whenever I feel like giving up, I will remember you Mr. Wallace. 41 years of solitary confinement and you remained strong, you continued to stand for Black Power. You are living proof that nothing can break a Black man’s spirit! God bless you!

  12. Do you know that you are a hero and inspire us all.

  13. María Rosa says:

    Queridos Herman y Albert: Que sus historias no se pierdan en tiempos de olvidos e injusticias, y que sirvan pesar de los insensibles que siempre seguirán existiendo, para modificar el futuro de muchos otros que sufren atrocidades semejantes por el color y por defender sus ideas. Un gran abrazo a las familias de ambos.

  14. Bianca Davis says:

    Herman,

    Your story is etched in all corners of the earth and will remain everlasting for those to come. I along with others will never forget the meaning of your life and the lesson you have taught us. And remember seize the day (Carpe Diem) my friend!

    Bianca

  15. herbert serrano lee says:

    Hermano tu lucha no es! ni era en vano! este humanidad no da mas. El nirvana espera por ti!!!!!

  16. Kirsten Bayes says:

    Herman symbolised freedom in the very worst circumstances, but behind the symbol was a man who suffered greatly for his beliefs. My deepest condolences to those privileged to know him. One day, racist oppression will be ended, and Herman’s name will be remembered as one of those who paid the highest price for the justice we will then enjoy.

  17. Dear Herman, when you said the last words, “I am Free, I am Free.” I think meant something far greater than being released from Angola. Your struggle and fight continues a positive impact on 1000s of us to become better people and fight with all we have in us to combat injustice. Revolutionary Love, Bro. Herman! Power to the People!

  18. man says:

    Come on man, you can do it,
    Best of luck my friend

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