In 1970, a jury convicted Robert Hillary King of a crime he did not
commit and sentenced him to 35 years in prison. He became a member
of the Black Panther Party while in Angola State Penitentiary,
successfully organizing prisoners to improve conditions. In return,
prison authorities beat him, starved him, and gave him life without
parole after framing him for a second crime. He was thrown into
solitary confinement, where he remained in a six by nine foot cell
for 29 years as one of the Angola 3. In 2001, the state grudgingly
acknowledged his innocence and set him free. This is his story.
It begins at the beginning: born black, born poor, born in
Louisiana in1942, King journeyed to Chicago as a hobo at the age of
15. He married and had a child, and briefly pursued a semi-pro
boxing career to help provide for his family. Just a teenager when
he entered the Louisiana penal system for the first time, King
tells of his attempts to break out of this system, and his
persistent pursuit of justice where there is none.
Yet this remains a story of inspiration and courage, and the
triumph of the human spirit. The conditions in Angola almost defy
description, yet King never gave up his humanity, or the work
towards justice for all prisoners that he continues to do today.
From the Bottom of the Heap, so simply and humbly told, strips bare
the economic and social injustices inherent in our society, while
continuing to be a powerful literary testimony to our own strength
and capacity to overcome.
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