History is full of many influential Black people whose accomplishments you won’t learn in school books. Whether they made an impact in their own communities or worldwide we can’t let them be forgotten. If we ourselves don’t write their stories then who will keep the legacy alive. In today’s small history lesson, we will learn about Fred Hampton.
Frederick Allen Hampton
He was known as Fred Hampton was Born August 30, 1948, until December 4, 1969, an American born activist and revolutionary socialist. It wasn’t always Fred’s Plan to become an activist, as a bright young child in school and athletic, his dream was to become a center field for the New York Yankees.
When enrolled at Triton Junior college as a pre-law major and decided to become more aware of the legal system to use it as a defense against the police. Which led him to become active for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He immediately took leadership of the Western Suburban Branch Youth Council. At this time in the black community of Maywood, he created more and much better recreational centers as well as the improvement of educational resources.
At the same time, the NAACP was rising with Fred; another organization was taking a step forward to accomplish big things. The Black Panther Party (BPP) was going national and got the attention of Fred Hampton and decided to move to Chicago. He rose up the ranks of BPP chairman of Illinois Chapter and the deputy chairman of the national BPP.
He even founded the Rainbow Coalition, Young Patriots, Young Lords, and created an alliance with the major street gangs in Chicago and help with social change. With all his work and dedication to helping the Black community, it also caught the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Fred’s great leadership was found as a threat to the FBI chief of investigation J. Edgar Hoover. All of these groups such as BPP and NAACP amongst the others was believed by Edgar Hoover to be a racial national revolution threat to the US government society.
The FBI went as far as to tap his phone lines to the point that they were listening to the conversation of Fred’s own mother. He then got listed on the bureau’s “ Agitator Index” as a “key militant leader”.
The FBI then used William O’Neal, knowing that he was arrested before joining the BPP in exchange for his charges to be dropped as well with a monthly stipend. They knew that O’Neal, as a black man could rise up the ranks quickly and get information as well. And that is exactly what happened; he became the Director of Chapter Security and Fred’s bodyguard.
On the day of Fred Hampton’s death, he taught a political educational course at the local church filled with many members of FPP. At the end of the night, as usual he would have many members go to his Monroe Street Apartment. O’Neal had given beforehand the whole layout of Fred’s apartment with full details to even where he and his fiancee Deborah Johnson slept.
O’Neal prepared a late-night meal and was given by the FBI a drug to keep him sedated when they raided his apartment. With the information provided by O’Neal, they knew drinks would be followed afterward. It is told that Fred fell asleep in the middle of a conversation he had with his mother on the telephone.
In the middle of the night, two teams of the police forced their way in with eight men in the front and six in the back of his apartment. The cops stormed into his bedroom, and next to him was Deborah at the time was nine months pregnant was forced from her bed. Then they continued to shoot Fred while he was unconscious. Unfortunately, Fred Hampton would not be the only one killed that night by the police, but Mark Clark, who was on Security Duty that night. Then just four weeks after his killing, Deborah gave birth to a boy their son Fred Hampton Jr.
“You can kill a revolutionary but you can never kill the revolution” Fred Hampton
When examining Fred Hampton’s body, it is said they found drugs by Cook County chemist Eleanor Berman even tho everyone claimed he never did such a thing. A second person, an FBI chemist examined his body and reported to find no such drugs in his body. Either way, Berman stuck to her story of what she found.
And if the killing wasn’t sad, the police held a conference the very next day stating they had been attacked by the “violent” Panthers and defended themselves. There was even a second conference held to praise the police for their “bravery restraint” and “professional discipline” in not killing all the members that night. The police describe that night as a shootout even tho the Mark Clark shotgun was discharged into the ceiling once after being shot.
On the day of his funeral, it is said over 5,000 people attended such as Jesse Jackson, Ralph Abernathy, Martin Luther King’s successor as head of the Southern Christain Leadership Conference.
Jackson’s eulogy stated that “When Fred was shot in Chicago, black people in particular, and decent people in general, bled everywhere”
The federal grand jury that was held returned with no indictment to non of the officers involved. O’Neal years later conferenced to his involvement with the police officers and sadly committed suicide out of guilt and betrayal towards Fred Hampton.
Afterward, the Cook County coroner Andrew Toman started a special six-member jury to hold an inquest in both of the deaths of Hampton and Clark. It was then later joined by four more members, which included two African American men. They were physician Theodore K. Lawless and attorney Julian B. Wilkins, the son of J. Ernest Wilkins Sr. Their deaths were later on ruled as “justifiable homicides. It’s even stated by Jury James T. Hicks that the charges made by the surviving Black Panthers could not be considered.
By the 1970s, the federal grand jury then criticized the actions taken by the police officers that the raid was “ill-conceived” and too many mistakes during the post-raid investigation and the reconstruction of the events of that fatal night. That same year the survivors and the relatives of Hampton and Clark filed a civil suit. The lawsuit was for the violation of the Black Panthers against the police and FBI raid and sought $47.7million dollars in damages.
A trial that took years to start lasted eighteen months. It had twenty-eight defendants that included Assistant DA Hanrahan, the City of Chicago, Cook County, and Federal Governments. A trail that concluded in the year of 1977 by a judge named Joseph Sam Perry of United States District. Court for the Northern District of Illinois and dismissed against 21 defendants.
Two years later, they went to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago due to the government withheld relevant documents thereby obstructing the case with Hampton and Clark against the Police Officers and FBI.
Then by 1980, it was voted 5-3 in the Supreme Court of the United States for the case to return to the District Court for a new trial. Then followed by another two years with the City of Chicago, Cook County, and the Federal Government finally agreed on a settlement which each one paid $616,313 to nine plaintiffs, and the mothers of Hampton and Clark. They claimed the settlement was to end the trails and not admitting to guilt or any type of responsibility to the members of BPP or families of the deceased.
Moving forward ten years later unanimously passed a resolution that was introduced by Alderman Madeline Haithcock making December 4, 2004, as “ Fred Hampton Day in Chicago”. In the resolution, it read “Fred Hampton, who was only 21 years old, made his mark in Chicago history not so much by his death as the heroic efforts of his life and by his goals of empowering the most oppressed sector of Chicago’s Black Community, bringing people in political life through participation in their own freedom fighting organization”.
In Maywood, Illinois, where he was born a pool was named in his honor, then March 2006 the supporters of Hampton’s charity proposed the naming a street after him in honor as a former Black Panther Leader. Of course, Chicago’s chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police opposed to the naming of the street. But instead in September of 2007, a bust of Fred was made and lives in front of Fred Hampton Family Aquatic Center.
And now you know a little better of the story of the Revolutionary Fredrick Allen Hampton and his bravery in the fight for his people. So keep saying his name and never let his legacy ever fade away for even in his life, death, and til now he keeps fighting.