I must have walked up and down this street hundreds, if not thousands, of times since I moved to Brighton, but the other day I noticed something I’d never seen before. Low down, at street level, just below the window frame of an empty shop, there’s a little plaque, positioned so you have to bend down to read it.
It says ‘Who is Herman Wallace?’
Someone obvioulsy put it there because they want you to seek out the answer to that question, but why put it somewhere where it’s almost hidden? Perhaps because it creates a sense that there is some mystery and intrigue surrounding Herman Wallace and his identity, and to make people feel like it’s worth seeking out the answer.
So, who is Herman Wallace? It’s not a hard question to answer anymore, one search and the answer is right there in front of you, and sadly, there’s no mystery or intrigue, just cold injustice:
“37 years ago, deep in rural Louisiana, three young black men were silenced for trying to expose continued segregation, systematic corruption, and horrific abuse in the biggest prison in the US, an 18,000-acre former slave plantation called Angola.
“Peaceful, non-violent protest in the form of hunger and work strikes organized by inmates, caught the attention of Louisiana’s first black elected legislators and local media in the early 1970s. State legislative leaders, along with the administration of a newly-elected, reform-minded governor, called for investigations into a host of unconstitutional practices and the extraordinarily cruel and unusual treatment commonplace in the prison.
“In 1972 and 1973 prison officials, determined to put an end to outside scrutiny, charged Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox, and Robert King with murders they did not commit and threw them into 6×9 foot cells in solitary confinement, for nearly 37 years. Robert was freed in 2001, but Herman and Albert remain behind bars.
“In July 2008 a Federal Judge overturned Albert Woodfox’s conviction after a State Judicial Magistrate found his trial was unfair due to inadequate representation, prosecutorial misconduct, suppression of exculpatory evidence, and racial discrimination in the grand jury selection process. Sadly, despite this powerful recommendation, Louisiana prosecutors maintain that Albert should remain in Angola for the rest of his life.
“The case is currently taking new life as a habeas petition in Federal Court in the same judicial process that led to Albert’s conviction being overturned” – from http://www.angola3.org/thecase.aspx