A Landing a Day

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Angola, Louisiana

Posted by graywacke on March 9, 2009

First timer? In this once-a-day blog, I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48). I call this “landing.” I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near. I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location. To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean), please see “About Landing,” above.

Dan –  Today’s landing is in the state of your birth, which has been a US state for years.  But, I’ve been landing in LA a little more frequently than I should, and it’s flirting with being OS.  So anyway . . . LA; 28/28; 4/10; 3; 166.4.  And now, as you can see, LA is PS.

I landed in a new “river,” the Tunica Bayou, which flows right into the Mississippi.  Here’s my landing map:


The first thing I noticed was how close I was to Angola.  Hmmm, thought I, is this the famous Angola of prison fame?  The answer is . . . yes.  Here’s a broader view, showing my landing at N30, W91:


I went to Google Earth and here’s a shot of the my landing that clearly shows the prison.  FYI, my landing spot is just south of the “e” in “State.”:


From Wiki:

Angola (also known as “The Farm“) is the Louisiana State Penitentiary and is estimated to be one of the largest prisons in the United States with 5,000 inmates and 1,800 staff members. It is located on what used to be an 18,000 acre plantation.

The land that has become Angola Penitentiary was purchased by Isaac Franklin from Francis Routh during the 1830s with the profits from his slave trading firm, Franklin and Armfield, of Alexandria, Virginia and Natchez, Mississippi. The plantation is named after the area in Africa where the former slaves came from.  Samuel James bought the plantation in 1880 and ran the plantation using convicts “leased” from the State of Louisiana.

The State of Louisiana assumed full control of the prison in 1901. In 1916 to save money, all the guards were fired, and selected inmates were used as trustees, a system which led to a great deal of abuse.

In 1952, 31 inmates cut their Achilles’ tendons in protest of the hard work and brutality (referred to as the Heel String Gang.)  In 1972, a reforming director of corrections was appointed by Governor Edwin Edwards, and the U.S. courts ordered Louisiana to clean up Angola once and for all, ending the Trusty system.

Successive wardens have continued the improvements.  Current Warden Burl Cain maintains an open-door policy with the media, which led to the production of the award winning documentary The Farm.

Angola is still run as a working farm; Warden Cain once said that the key to running a peaceful maximum security prison was that “you’ve got to keep the inmates working all day so they’re tired at night.”

The prison hosts a rodeo every April and October, and its inmates produce the award-winning magazine The Angolite, available to the general public and relatively uncensored. Angola Prison is also home to the country’s only inmate-operated radio station.

Here’s a picture:


A famous musician, “Lead Belly” spent some time at Angola.  Here’s a picture, with him out in front at the fence:


From Wiki:

Huddie William Ledbetter (January 1888 – December 6, 1949) was an American folk blues musician, notable for his clear and forceful singing, his virtuosity on the twelve string guitar, and the rich songbook of folk standards he introduced.

He is best known as Leadbelly or Lead Belly. Though many releases list him as “Leadbelly,” he himself spelled it “Lead Belly.” This is also the usage on his tombstone,[

Lead Belly’s volatile nature sometimes led him into trouble with the law. After several stings in prison, in the 1920s, he was back in prison 8n 1930.  After a summary trial, this time in Louisiana, for attempted homicide – he had knifed a white man in a fight. It was there, three years later, that he was “discovered” by John Lomax.  He was enchanted by Lead Belly’s talent, passion, and singularity as a performer and recorded hundreds of his songs on portable aluminum disc recording equipment for the Library of Congress.

On August 1, 1934, Lead Belly was released after the Lomaxes had taken a petition to Louisiana Governor O.K. Allen at Lead Belly’s urgent request. A prison official later wrote to John Lomax denying that Lead Belly’s singing had anything to do his release from Angola, and state prison records confirm that he was eligible for early release due to good behavior.

After his release, Lead Belly seemed to more-or-less get his act together.  Here’s a picture:


His most famous song is “Midnight Special,” an old folk song that he popularized (recorded in 1934).  It was later covered by Johnny Rivers, Creedence Clearwater Revival, ABBA, Van Morrison, Odetta, Little Richard, Buckwheat Zydeco, Pete Seeger, The Kingston Trio, The Spencer Davis Group, Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney (among many others).



© 2009 A Landing A Day

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