Fred Hampton (1948-1969), also called Chairman Fred, was a black American revolutionary, a rising star of the Black Panthers in Chicago. In 1969, with Malcolm X and Martin Luther King dead, Hampton was the most promising black leader alive. But then he was murdered in what turned out to be an FBI plot.
Hampton grew up in Maywood, a suburb of Chicago. In 1966 he went to Triton Junior College in hopes of becoming a lawyer. He joined the NAACP and got hundreds to join.
In 1968, after the death of Martin Luther King, he joined the Black Panthers and moved to the West Side of Chicago. He helped to start and run its services, like free breakfast for poor children, a free health clinic and political education classes. In 1969 he made peace between the main Chicago gangs.
Hampton was able to pull people together, even across lines of race and class. It was he who came up with the term “the rainbow coalition”. He made people believe in themselves and their power. It was hard to hear him speak and not be moved.
Most white people and the Chicago police saw the Panthers as a threat because they had guns – overlooking the fact that they only used them in self-defence, the right of all citizens.
Hampton lived at 2337 W. Monroe St. with his girlfriend and seven other Panther friends. On December 4th 1969 at 4:45 am the police came to his door.
As Edward Hanrahan, the state attorney general, tells it, the police knocked on the door and said they had a search warrant. In answer the Panthers opened fire. In the shoot-out that followed Hampton and Panther Mark Clark were killed; the others were arrested for attempted murder.
We wholeheartedly commend the police officers’ bravery, their remarkable restraint and discipline in the face of this vicious Black Panther attack, and we expect every decent citizen of our community to do likewise.
Over 5,000 came to Hampton’s funeral. There Jesse Jackson said:
When Fred was shot in Chicago, black people in particular, and decent people in general, bled everywhere.
For two weeks after the shooting the Panthers let people walk through the house. It was clear that the police had come to gun down Hampton: the wall to his bedroom was full of bullet holes from a submachine gun (somehow they knew where his bedroom was beforehand). His mattress was soaked in blood. It was later proved that over 90 shots were fired, not a single one at the police.
The Panthers and the families of Hampton and Clark took the police and Hanrahan to court. It went on and on for 14 years with the government lying and denying the whole way. But then a judge made the FBI turn over 500 boxes of papers. And there among the papers was the hand-drawn layout of Hampton’s house. Another paper showed that the FBI paid a $300 bonus to William O’Neal – Hampton’s bodyguard.
Cointelpro. Look it up.