Narrated by Mumia Abu-Jamal, this is the story of Robert King Wilkerson, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox – men who have endured solitary confinement longer than any known prisoner in the US, and who formed one of the only prison chapters of the Black Panthers. Inside the notorious Angola prison – a former slave plantation where the only change since slavery is it’s classification, prisoners work under much the same conditions as the 1800’s, watched by mounted overseers with shotguns.
It is these images of a modern day plantation that hit the hardest, combined with first hand accounts of institutionalized rape and murder that keep the population in physical and psychological chains. The Angola 3’s victory is that in this environment of total oppression, they organized fellow prisoners into a movement for the right to live as human beings. Within the context of the COINTELPRO operations being carried out by the FBI in the 60’s and 70’s to silence radical voices, this achievement is nothing short of a miracle.
Through interviews with the 3, as well as original Black Panthers Geronimo Pratt, David Hilliard and others, the nature and scale of this struggle is revealed, and the down to earth humanity of all the members of the movement shines through. Although occasionally very dry in presentation – many of the interviews are on scratchy, penitentiary intercoms with only a photograph to accompany them – patience is rewarded with gems of wisdom and the indomitable spirit of true freedom fighters.
For those that don’t know, this film is an excellent introduction to one of the greatest social movements of the 20th century – The Black Panther party, an organization that had the American power structure shaking in it’s goose-stepping boots for over a decade until it was mercilessly crushed and nearly destoyed, it’s leaders assasinated and imprisoned, its true political aims obscured. Time to watch Huey P’s speeches on YouTube again kids.