Friday, December 04, 2009

Fred Hampton

On this day, at around 4:45 in the morning, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) raided a building at 2337 W. Monroe St. where they shot and killed Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, and Mark Clark, a Black Panther Party (BPP) member. The initial report of the raid claimed that as soon as the police started knocking they were attacked by a barrage of gunfire through the front door by the members of the BPP that were inside; however, further investigation into the deaths of Hampton and Clark revealed that the occupants of the building may have managed to shoot, if any, just one bullet. In fact, most sources on the subject definitively state that Hampton and Clark were murdered by the Chicago Police Department for their involvement in the BPP, although the FBI still refers to their murders as "alleged." Hampton never even left his bed that morning - he died in it - and there is strong evidence he was drugged the evening prior, allegedly by a William O'Neal, a Panther that had been arrested previously and released in return for informant services to the FBI and CPD. The officials who enacted the raid, killed the two men, and left six others injured, were acquitted of all crimes by an all white grand jury.

It has actually become somewhat common knowledge by now that the FBI deliberately set out to destroy the BPP in the 1960s and early 1970s. J. Edgar Hoover and other officials classified the group as nothing more than another criminal gang to contend with. Ultimately, though, it was state and local officials that lent a big hand in destroying the leadership of the BPP. Members and leaders that officials did not kill have been accused of crimes, often serious crimes, they insist they have not committed, such as former Party member Assata Shakur. Even today, the FBI is still offering a $1 million dollar reward for information leading to Shakur's arrest and capture for crimes she is adamant she did not and could not have committed.

One of the consequences of this targeting of the BPP and other members of the Civil Rights Movement, is that African-Americans have been repeatedly robbed of some of their best and brightest leaders. Fred Hampton was a well-known activist who started up food programs for low income kids and health care clinics in areas that desperately needed them, negotiated truces among Chicago inner city gangs, and brought together different minority groups coining the phrase "rainbow coalition." He was charismatic, intelligent, well-respected and well-liked. It was leaders like this that were deliberately targeted, and, as Dr. Quentin Young, put it, "the people who made it their business to kill the leaders of the black movement picked the right ones."

Many people have very strong opinions on this matter and I'll leave it up to you to form and/or strengthen your own. The library is the best place out there to do just that:

*Anything quoted in this article comes from the "Fred Hampton" entry in Contemporary Black Biography, volume 18, and was found using Biography Resource Center - an excellent source for comprehensive biographies and links to resources on a large number of well-known people.

Breaking the Cycle
*Requires an APL library card
Article from 1992 expressing outrage at Fred Hampton, Jr.'s (Fred Hampton's son) arrest during the riots that took place after the Rodney King verdict. Hampton, Jr. spent 9 years in prison for the arson conviction that came after this arrest. He maintains his innocence and details his other run-ins with law enforcement (including being wrongfully accused of murder) here.

Fed by Fear: The FBI's Crusade Against Fred Hampton and the Black Panters

Was Fred Hampton Executed?
*Requires an APL library card
Article from 1976 providing details of the raid and evidence that contradicts the police report.


Assata: An Autobiography

The Black Panthers: Photographs

Eyes on the Prize (documentary)

The Huey P. Newton Reader

The Murder of Fred Hampton (documentary)

Two Nations of Black America (documentary)

Up Against the Wall: Violence in the Making and Unmaking of the Black Panther Party

You Can't Kill Revolution: Black Panther Party, 1969 (CD - a recording of a speech made by Fred Hampton)

Black Panther Coloring Book
Very interesting; distributed by the FBI in the late 60s

FBI's files on Fred Hampton

Fred Hampton sound clip from UC Berkely

From COINTELPRO to the Shadow Government: As Fred Hampton, Jr. is Released from 9 Years of Prison, a Look Back at the Assassination of Fred Hampton (audio)

Power Anywhere Where There's People
Text of a Fred Hampton speech

Shoot it Out: The Death of Fred Hampton
Very thoroughly researched and detailed account of the December 4, 1969 raid

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