The Texas Death Row Community: Written Words from Behind the Row (1990s)
What's Happening Texas Death Row Newsletter
In October of 1991, the Endeavor Project released the first edition of the What’s Happening newsletter, spearheaded by death row inmate Gary T. Graham, who self identifies as Shaka Sankofa. The What’s Happening newsletter was curated and edited solely by inmates sentenced on death row, and was intended to circulate within the Ellis Correctional Unit in Hunstville, Texas, where death row inmates were housed in the 1990s. The main coordinators (editors) for the newsletter vary with each edition, and new editions were published every month. It is unclear how many editions were published, and how they spread beyond the Ellis Unit, but the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History currently has 11 editions of the newsletter, published between October 1991 through August 1992. Originally, the newsletter functioned as a means to transmit information relevant to the Texas death row community, along with inmate expressions, community updates, and upcoming projects. But current analysis of the What’s Happening newsletters offer a look into the Texas death row community cultivated specifically to the needs and interests of death row inmates, and the experiences of inmates awaiting execution. Contextual analysis of the newsletters, under the framework established by Bruce Arrigio and Carol Fowler, reveals the psychological aspects that make up the Texas death row community, while also giving a glimpse of the more realistic and humane side of death row inmates, typically not seen by the general population.