Panthers in the Hole by Bruno Cenou, David Cenou, Olivia Taylor Smith (Translator)

January 5, 2017
Panthers in the Hole, Bruno Cenou, David Cenou, Olivia Taylor Smith, Book Review, InToriLexPublished By: Phoneme Media on July 1, 2016
Format Read: Paperback Edition
Genre: Non-fiction/ Comic/ Race
Series: Stand Alone
Source: Author Request
Panthers in the Hole
In 1972, inmates Robert Hillary King, Albert Woodfox, and Herman Wallace were put in solitary confinement in Louisiana State Penitentiary (a.k.a. Angola Prison), after being convicted under questionable circumstances for the killing of a prison guard.

Because of their work organizing on behalf of the Black Panthers, Robert King spent 29 years in solitary confinement before his conviction was overturned and he was released. Wallace was released in 2013, after more than 41 years in prison, and days later of liver cancer. In November of 2014, Woodfox had his conviction overturned by the US Court of Appeals, and in April 2015 his lawyer applied for an unconditional writ for his release. As of June of 2015, that release has been blocked by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Despite documentary films, a long-running campaign by Amnesty International, and appeals from the murdered prison guard's widow, Albert Woodfox remains the longest-serving U.S. prisoner in solitary confinement.

What is it like to spend decades in solitary confinement for a crime you did not commit? Panthers in the Hole relates the experience of three men whose lives were snatched away by a prison system that seems more at home in a totalitarian regime than America. 



This was a powerful narrative that packs a large amount of information in a short amount of pages. The Angola 3 Robert Hillary King, Albert Woodfox, and Herman Wallace served decades in solitary confinement. Solitary confinement is a inhumane practice that continues to be practiced today, where prisoners are kept in a cell 23 hours a day, and have extremely limited contact with others. The United States continues to use this practice in prisons across America to mostly black and brown bodies. The Angola 3 were charged and convicted for crimes they didn't commit. Their sentences were exacerbated because of their involvement with the Black Panther movement.
The Louisiana State Penitentiary was  "created after the civil war, built on five former plantations it's named after the Homeland of it's original forced laborers." This comic focuses on the blame, humiliation and injustice that three black men faced because prisoners are treated as sub-human in the U.S. prison system. Supporting black liberation within prison walls was also a threat to the prison system because when prisoners can advocate for their own humanity they are not easily cast aside. Political prisoners within the United States show just how intolerant the U.S. can be to people who want to think, organize and act for themselves.
This was a powerful reflection on the inhuman practices of prisons and the reasons that we need to fight to change the criminal justice system as it exists. Using people that are paid only 3-35 cents and hour for work is slavery. I would recommend this to everyone, it highlights how our criminal justice system has and continues to operate in inherently racist and unjust ways. On February 19, 2016 the Albert Woodfox was released after four decades in solitary confinement, he died three days later from cancer.  Robert Hillary King writes a great Afterword and states:
"So if you are duly convicted of a crime--I mean legally convicted of a crime-- you can become a slave, and if you are legally sentenced to death they can kill you."


Bruno Cénou was born in Agen in 1968 and has lived in Marseille since 1994. After studying philosophy, he became interested in information technology and, in particular, free software and the free circulation of intellectual property. He currently works for the National Center for Scientific Research. Panthers in the Hole is his first graphic novel.

David Cénou published his first graphic novel, Mirador, tete de mort, in 2011, a no-holds-barred memoir about his past as a skinhead. He is a nurse in Agen. Panthers in the hole is his second book.

Olivia Taylor Smith is the Executive Editor at Unnamed Press. She lives in Los Angeles.

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