What Is Herman’s House?

It’s a dream house built by an artist for a man in a cage… 

Courtesy of Herman Wallace and Jackie Sumell's vision_Where Excuses Go to DieIsn’t it just when you find something you want to record that you encounter holes in your cable package? This became an issue for me when I attempted to DVR “Herman’s House,” a documentary airing tonight on the PBS series “POV.”

Turns out AT&T U-verse, my provider, isn’t much of a friend to public television; they don’t actually carry the non-profit public broadcast network, PBS. I find that unfortunate and insulting, since they carry loads of useless crap.

At any rate, Herman Wallace is an imprisoned member of the Angola 3 who has been living his life – 41 years and counting – in solitary confinement. He’s maintained correspondence with artist Jackie Sumell for many years; it’s with her help (and at her urging) that Wallace has conjured his “dream house.” The journey began when Sumell asked Wallace in a letter, “What kind of house does a man who has lived in a six-foot-by-nine-foot box for over 30 years dream of?”

I was immediately pulled into the story of Herman Wallace and Jackie Sumell, in part because of a question I once asked: “What’s left of a man after seventeen years in a box?”

What began as a remarkable psychic survival tool in their written exchanges took on a life of its own when Sumell decided to build the house for real – though Herman may never step through its front door. It has since progressed into a fight for Wallace’s release and a call to address growing questions about the dubious manner in which he was convicted back in 1972.

Should “Herman’s House” be airing on your local PBS station – and it damn well should be – you won’t regret tuning in or recording it.

Personally, I was scratching my head over what AT&T’s excuse might be for neglecting programming of such quality and dimension, so of course I called. AT&T U-verse does offer PBS for kids, I was told, aka “Sprout,” but further inquiry confused the young phone rep to whom my call was directed. Soon it was he who scratching his head over how I could persist. After all, he’d just shared with me his discovery of “PBS” in his service directory. I had asked, and he had triumphed – what was the problem?

I said, “That isn’t the one. I’m looking for the PBS station for those of us old enough to drive.”

“Sir, AT&T does carry PBS,” he countered – twice. “I have it right here. It’s called Sprout.”

I hung up. His grandfather was probably on Herman Wallace’s jury.

Thankfully, “Herman’s House” will also be available online July 9, 2013 – Aug. 7, 2013. So again, try to check it out.

Why? ‘Cause it’s a story about people, and that’s all it should need to sell you.


“I would like for you to build me a swimming pool with a large Black Panther in the center.”

Whaa! I just want to see the looks on the neighbor’s faces! 

Watch the house that Herman built now on POVdocs

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