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Frank "Big Black" Smith (1933-2004)

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Stripped Attica inmates holding hands above heads, April 26, 1972.

Frank Smith, who weighed 250 pounds and stood over six feet tall, served nine years in prison for robbery. In 1971 he was in New York's Attica state prison when the prisoners revolted. A charismatic man popular with inmates and prison staff, Smith guarded the negotiators sent in to settle the standoff. After state police retook the prison by force, the police meted out fierce retribution. Barefoot prisoners were made to run through broken glass while police beat them with clubs. Smith was stripped naked, his testicles were beaten, cigarettes were put out on his skin, and he was ordered to remain motionless with a football held under his chin or he would be killed. In 1974, Smith was released from prison and worked as a paralegal investigator. In 2000, Smith and about 800 other plaintiffs won an $8 million settlement against New York State; the judge singled out Smith as "a real peacemaker in the Christian sense." "Getting the money is not the whole thing," Smith said, "it's about getting justice and having the state admit that it was wrong."

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