August “Gerttown” Williams
Arrested at 15 years old and sentenced to die at age 16 in 1968 Jim Crow South, August
Williams, also known as Gerttown, a name he was given while incarcerated because of the New
Orleans community where he was born and raised, was convicted to death by an all white jury
and spent five years on death row of the largest, most notorious prison in this country and
former enslaved plantation, Louisiana State Penitentiary or Angola State Prison. Known for its
cruel and unusual punishment of men and Black men in particular, and, the unspeakable “Camp
J”, Gerttown, a child by all accounts, had to literally fight to maintain his dignity, manhood,
salvation, mental state, and innocence.
In 1973, Mr. Williams was resentenced to life without parole as a result of the United States
Supreme Court case, Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972), which struck down all death
penalty schemes across the country. This instilled a sense of hope in Mr. Williams that there
could be a possibility of him going home one day and reuniting with his family and community.
So much so that he took his rehabilitation into his own hands and began taking educational
classes, learning how to read and write (he only had a 5th grade education upon being
incarcerated; having dropped out of school to help their mother with his sisters).
Mr. Williams decided to take his rehabilitation even further, being baptized in 1998, earning over
two dozen faith-based certifications and an Associates Degree from Amherst Theological
Seminary in 2004. In 2007, he completed Tier Walker Training, which allowed him to assess
and counsel other incarcerated men who were considering or had attempted suicide. He also
served as a Nurse’s Aid in the healthcare unit and trained and mentored in physical fitness. He
has received numerous accolades recognizing his outstanding contributions and achievements
to incarcerated men in Angola prison.
Six times Mr. Williams applied for a pardon based on evidence (before they claimed it was lost)
and expert testimony provided by two medical doctors that he was innocent of all charges
against him. And although the Pardon Board commuted his sentence each time, the Governor
of the state of Louisiana refused to sign off on it. In 2017, Equality Justice Initiative represented
Mr. Williams at his first parole hearing where he was finally granted parole after serving three
months shy of fifty (50) years. He was 65 years old.
Since his release, Mr. Williams currently serves as a BAR NONE Artist in Resident—led by
homegrown New Orleanians, BAR NONE is a grassroots-minded, nonprofit organization offering
people of Afrikan/African descent, who are currently and formerly incarcerated, seven elements
of service: *therapeutic healing, *education, *entrepreneurship, *arts, *homes,
*community-driven justice, and *partnership— where he speaks locally and nationally about his
case and his continued fight to be exonerated as he still contends, with 50 year old expert
testimony to support his innocence; authoring 2 books about his life, prior to, and while
incarcerated, a compilation book and documentary.
To bring Gerttown to a community, college/university, facility, institution, etc., near you, please
contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Please visit us at www.bar-none.net to stay up to date on Gerttown,
sign the petition to support his exoneration and other BAR NONE community work.