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Angola guard tower headed to Smithsonian

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ANGOLA - A guard tower from Angola State Penitentiary will be removed this week and make its way to Washington D.C. to be displayed in a Smithsonian museum.

The tower will be on display in the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum is currently under construction and is set to open in November 2015.

The guard tower was built around the 1930s and used to guard inmates in Camp H. Armed inmates called "khaki-backs" served as guards until the early 1970s. Angola Warden Burl Cain says that was a violent time for Angola.

"Some years they would have as many as 40 murders. This was Camp H... this was a brutal place that was just every man for himself, predators and victims of predators. It was horrible. This is what you don't want to have in prison," he said.

That's why Cain feels it's important to learn about the past.

"We need to learn to continue to progress and never go back. We need to realize that prison isn't a punitive place but a place to correct deviant behavior," he said.

The tower will be on display to explain what life was like for incarcerated African Americans.

"Angola has a long, long history, and it's important that we tell the story of Angola, both where it's been and where it's going. It's important to tell the story of America, and our museum specifically is telling the history of America through an African American lens," says Smithsonian Institute project manager Carlos Bustamante.

A prison cell door, shotgun and other items will be on display in Washington, D.C. along with the guard tower.


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