In 1985, Ndume Olatushani was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death in Tennessee for a murder he did not commit. Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Ndume had never even visited the state of Tennessee before he was brought to Memphis to stand trial. The prosecution won a conviction by burying evidence of Ndume’s innocence and seating an all-white jury to convict him.
Ndume spent 28 years in maximum security prisons, 20 of those on death row. His story is one of human resilience, perseverance, and the power of art to change lives.
While on death row, Ndume began to draw and then taught himself to paint. Art allowed him to exist in a state of harmony and tranquility, in spite of being wrongfully locked up. Ndume says, “I found freedom locked in a 4 x 9 foot cell, for 23 hours a day, living in the shadow of death.”
After 20 years on death row, Ndume’s death sentence was overturned and he was moved to the general prison population. He spent another 8 years in prison before a court finally overturned his conviction. On June 1, 2012, he was released from the Shelby County Jail in Memphis.
Ndume travels nationally and internationally speaking out against the death penalty. He also works with young people, helping them to find their own inner artist and teaching them about the perils of making the wrong decisions.