National Museum of African American History and Culture: Angola Prison Tower

Artifact Fact Sheet
November 17, 2013
Media Fact Sheet

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The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture received a donation of a prison guard tower from the Louisiana State Penitentiary in 2012. The prison, also known as Angola after a 19th-century plantation on the same site of land, is one of the largest maximum-security prisons in the country.

The surveillance tower will help the museum explore the complex history of African American oppression and incarceration in the United States. It will be a focal object in the museum’s inaugural exhibition on segregation.

Specifications and History

  • About 21 feet tall and 14 feet wide, the tower was erected between the 1930s and 1940s and is symbolic of the method of surveillance in the prison system.
  • In July 2013, the guard tower was dismantled from Camp H at the Louisiana State Penitentiary and transported to a restoration facility in Stearns, Ky.

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La Fleur Paysour

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Abigail Benson

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