|Born||August 30, 1948
Summit, Illinois, U.S.
|Died||December 4, 1969
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Alma mater||Proviso East High School, (1966)|
|Known for||Deputy Chairman Illinois chapter Black Panther Party|
|Black Panther Party|
|Relatives||Son: Fred Hampton, Jr.|
Fred Hampton (August 30, 1948 – December 4, 1969) was an African-American activist, chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party (BPP), and deputy chairman of the national BPP. He was killed while sleeping in his apartment during a raid by a tactical unit of the Cook County, Illinois State's Attorney's Office (SAO), in conjunction with the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Hampton's killing was chronicled in the documentary film The Murder of Fred Hampton (1971) as well as an episode of the critically acclaimed documentary series Eyes on the Prize.
Hampton was born on August 30, 1948, in present day Summit, Illinois, and grew up in Maywood, a suburb west of the city. His parents had moved north from Louisiana, and both worked at the Argo Starch Company. As a youth, Hampton was gifted both in the classroom and on the athletic field, and strongly desired to play center field for the New York Yankees. He graduated from Proviso East High School with honors in 1966.
Following his graduation, Hampton enrolled at Triton Junior College in nearby River Grove, Illinois, where he majored in pre-law. He planned to become more familiar with the legal system, to use it as a defense against police. He and fellow Black Panthers would follow police, watching out for police brutality, and used this knowledge of law as a defense. He also became active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and assumed leadership of the Youth Council of the organization's West Suburban Branch. In his capacity as an NAACP youth organizer, Hampton began to demonstrate his natural leadership abilities; from a community of 27,000, he was able to muster a youth group 500-members strong. He worked to get more and better recreational facilities established in the neighborhoods, and to improve educational resources for Maywood's impoverished black community. Through his involvement with the NAACP, Hampton hoped to achieve social change through nonviolent activism and community organizing.
About the same time that Hampton was successfully organizing young African-Americans for the NAACP, the Black Panther Party (BPP) started rising to national prominence. Hampton was quickly attracted to the Black Panthers' approach, which was based on a ten-point program that integrated black self-determination and certain elements of Maoism. Hampton joined the Party and relocated to downtown Chicago, and in November 1968 he joined the Party's nascent Illinois chapter — founded by Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) organizer Bob Brown in late 1967.
Over the next year, Hampton and his associates made a number of significant achievements in Chicago. Perhaps his most important accomplishment was his brokering of a nonaggression pact between Chicago's most powerful street gangs. Emphasizing that racial and ethnic conflict between gangs would only keep its members entrenched in poverty, Hampton strove to forge a class-conscious, multi-racial alliance between the BPP, the Young Patriots Organization, and the National Young Lords under the leadership of Jose Cha Cha Jimenez. Later, they were joined by the Students for a Democratic Society ("SDS"), the Blackstone Rangers, the Brown Berets, and the Red Guard Party. In May 1969, Hampton called a press conference to announce that a truce had been declared among this "rainbow coalition", a phrase coined by Hampton and made popular over the years by Rev. Jesse Jackson, who eventually appropriated the name in forming his own, unrelated, coalition, Rainbow/PUSH.
Hampton's organizing skills, substantial oratorical gifts, and personal charisma allowed him to rise quickly in the Black Panthers. Once he became leader of the Chicago chapter, he organized weekly rallies, worked closely with the BPP's local People's Clinic, taught political education classes every morning at 6am, and launched a project for community supervision of the police. Hampton was also instrumental in the BPP's Free Breakfast Program. When Brown left the Party with Stokely Carmichael in the FBI-fomented SNCC/Panther split, Hampton assumed chairmanship of the Illinois state BPP, automatically making him a national BPP deputy chairman. As the Panther leadership across the country began to be decimated by the impact of the FBI's COINTELPRO, Hampton's prominence in the national hierarchy increased rapidly and dramatically. Eventually, Hampton was in line to be appointed to the Party's Central Committee's Chief of Staff. He would have achieved this position had it not been for his assassination on the morning of December 4, 1969.
While Hampton impressed many of the people with whom he came into contact as an effective leader and talented communicator, those very qualities marked him as a major threat in the eyes of the FBI. It began keeping close tabs on his activities. Subsequent investigations have shown that FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover was determined to prevent the formation of a cohesive Black movement in the United States. Hoover saw the Panthers, and similar radical coalitions forged by Hampton in Chicago, as a frightening steppingstone toward the creation of just such a revolutionary body that could, in its strength, cause a radical change in the U.S. government.
The FBI opened a file on Hampton in 1967 that over the next two years expanded to twelve volumes and over 4000 pages. A wire tap was placed on Hampton's mother's phone in February 1968. By May of that year, Hampton's name was placed on the "Agitator Index", and he would be designated a "key militant leader for Bureau reporting purposes."
In late 1968, the Racial Matters squad of the FBI's Chicago field office brought in an individual named William O'Neal, who had recently been arrested twice, for interstate car theft and impersonating a federal officer. In exchange for having his felony charges dropped and a monthly stipend, O'Neal apparently agreed to infiltrate the BPP as a counterintelligence operative. He joined the Party and quickly rose in the organization, becoming Director of Chapter security and Hampton's bodyguard.
In 1969, the FBI special agent in San Francisco wrote Hoover that the agent's investigation of the BPP revealed that in his city, at least, the Panthers were primarily feeding breakfast to children. Hoover fired back a memo implying the career ambitions of the agent were directly related to his supplying evidence to support Hoover's view that the BPP was "a violence-prone organization seeking to overthrow the Government by revolutionary means".
By means of anonymous letters, the FBI sowed distrust and eventually instigated a split between the Panthers and the Rangers, with O'Neal himself instigating an armed clash between the two on April 2, 1969. The Panthers became effectively isolated from their powerbase in the ghetto, so the FBI went to work to undermine its ties with other radical organizations. O'Neal was instructed to "create a rift" between the Party and SDS, whose Chicago headquarters was only blocks from that of the Panthers. The Bureau released a batch of racist cartoons in the Panthers' name, aimed at alienating white activists, and launched a disinformation program to forestall the realization of the "Rainbow Coalition". In repeated directives, Hoover demanded that the COINTELPRO personnel "destroy what the [BPP] stands for" and "eradicate its 'serve the people' programs".
On July 16, there was an armed confrontation between party members and the Chicago Police Department, which left one BPP member mortally wounded and six others arrested on serious charges.
On May 26, 1969, Hampton was successfully prosecuted in a case related to a theft in 1967 of $71 worth of Good Humor Bars in Maywood. He was sentenced to two to five years but managed to obtain an appeal bond, and was released in August.
In early October, Hampton and his girlfriend, Deborah Johnson (now known as Akua Njeri), pregnant with their first child (Fred Hampton, Jr.), rented a four-and-a-half room apartment on 2337 West Monroe Street to be closer to BPP headquarters. O'Neal reported to his superiors that much of the Panthers' "provocative" stockpile of arms was being stored there. In early November, Hampton traveled to California on a speaking engagement to the UCLA Law Students Association. While there, he met with the remaining BPP national hierarchy, who appointed him to the Party's Central Committee. Shortly thereafter, he was to assume the position of Chief of Staff and major spokesman.
Raid and assassination
"We expected about twenty Panthers to be in the apartment when the police raided the place. Only two of those black niggers were killed, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark."—FBI Special Agent Gregg York 
In November 1969, Hampton traveled to California and met with the National BPP leadership at UCLA. It was there that they offered him a position on the Central Committee as the chief of staff and asked him to serve as the national spokesman for the BPP. While Hampton was out of town, two Chicago police officers, John J. Gilhooly and Frank G. Rappaport, were killed in a gun battle with Panthers on the night of November 13. A total of nine police officers were shot; a 19-year-old Panther named Spurgeon Winter, Jr. was killed by police; and another Panther, Lawrence S. Bell, was charged with murder. In an editorial headlined "No Quarter for Wild Beasts", the Chicago Tribune urged that Chicago police be given the order to approach all Panther suspects prepared to shoot.
The FBI, determined to prevent any enhancement of the BPP leadership's effectiveness, decided to set up an arms raid on Hampton's Chicago apartment. FBI informant William O'Neal provided them with detailed information about Hampton's apartment, including the location of furniture and the bed in which Hampton and his then-pregnant girlfriend slept. An augmented, 14-man team of the SAO — Special Prosecutions Unit — was organized for a pre-dawn raid armed with a warrant for illegal weapons.
On the evening of December 3, Hampton taught a political education course at a local church, which was attended by most members. Afterwards, as was typical, several Panthers retired to the Monroe Street apartment to spend the night, including Hampton and Deborah Johnson (also known as Akua Njeri), Blair Anderson, Ronald "Doc" Satchell, Harold Bell, Verlina Brewer, Louis Truelock, Brenda Harris, and Mark Clark.
Upon arrival, they were met by O'Neal, who had prepared a late dinner, which the group ate around midnight. O'Neal had slipped the powerful barbiturate sleep agent, secobarbitol, into a drink that Hampton consumed during the dinner, in order to sedate Hampton so he would not awaken during the subsequent raid. O'Neal left at this point, and, at about 1:30 a.m., Hampton fell asleep in mid-sentence talking to his mother on the telephone. Although Hampton was not known to take drugs, Cook County chemist Eleanor Berman would report that she ran two separate tests which each showed a powerful barbiturate had been introduced into Hampton's blood. An FBI chemist would later fail to find similar traces, but Berman stood by her findings.
The raid was organized by the office of Cook County State's Attorney Edward Hanrahan, using officers attached to his office. Hanrahan had recently been the subject of a large amount of public criticism by Hampton, who had made speeches about how Hanrahan's talk about a "war on gangs" was really rhetoric used to enable him to carry out a "war on black youth".
At 4:00 a.m., the heavily armed police team arrived at the site, divided into two teams, eight for the front of the building and six for the rear. At 4:45 a.m., they stormed into the apartment.
Mark Clark, sitting in the front room of the apartment with a shotgun in his lap, was on security duty. He was shot in the heart and died instantly. His gun fired a single round which was later determined to be caused by a reflexive death convulsion after the raiding team shot him; this was the only shot the Panthers fired.
Automatic gunfire then converged at the head of the south bedroom where Hampton slept, unable to awaken as a result of the barbiturates the FBI infiltrator had slipped into his drink. He was lying on a mattress in the bedroom with his pregnant fiancée, who was eight-and-a-half months pregnant with their child. Two officers found him wounded in the shoulder, and fellow Black Panther Harold Bell reported that he heard the following exchange:
- "That's Fred Hampton."
- "Is he dead?... Bring him out."
- "He's barely alive.
- "He'll make it."
Two shots were heard, which it was later discovered were fired point blank in Hampton's head. According to Johnson, one officer then said:
- "He's good and dead now."
Hampton's body was dragged into the doorway of the bedroom and left in a pool of blood. The officers then directed their gunfire towards the remaining Panthers, who had been sleeping in the north bedroom (Satchel, Anderson, and Brewer). Verlina Brewer, Ronald "Doc" Satchel, Blair Anderson, and Brenda Harris were seriously wounded, then beaten and dragged into the street, where they were arrested on charges of aggravated assault and the attempted murder of the officers. They were each held on US$100,000 bail.
Hampton's fiancée, Deborah Johnson, was eight months pregnant at the time and was sleeping next to him when the police raid began. She was forcibly removed out of the room by the police officers while an unconscious Hampton lay in bed. The seven Panthers that survived the raid were indicted by a grand jury on charges of attempted murder, armed violence, and various other weapons charges. These charges were subsequently dropped. During the trial, the Chicago police department claimed that the Panthers were the first to fire shots; however, a later investigation found that the Chicago police fired approximately anywhere between ninety and ninety-nine shots while the Panthers had in reality only shot twice. After the raid, the apartment was left unguarded, which allowed the Panthers to send some members to investigate. They brought with them a videographer, and the footage was later released in the 1971 documentary The Murder of Fred Hampton.
Despite the evidence that suggested otherwise, Hampton's death was ruled as a justifiable homicide. However, after a surge in support of the Black Panthers, the rising public pressure forced the county to re-open and re-examine the case. Ceding to the pressure, the county held a trial July 1972 to determine whether or not law officials had a part in a conspiracy to obstruct justice. Four months later, the defendants were found not guilty of all charges.
After a break-in at an FBI office in Pennsylvania the existence of an illegal counter-intelligence program that went by the name of COINTELPRO was brought to light. The purpose of this program was to target and neutralize "Black Nationalist-Hate Groups". When knowledge of this program came to light, many began to suspect that the police raid and the assassination of Fred Hampton was a part of the program's initiative. One of the documents that were released after the break-in was a floor plan of Hampton's apartment. Another document outlined a deal the FBI brokered with the deputy attorney general to conceal the FBI's role in the assassination of Hampton and the existence of COINTELPRO.
At a press conference the next day, the police announced the arrest team had been attacked by the "violent" and "extremely vicious" Panthers and had defended themselves accordingly. In a second press conference on December 8, the assault team was praised for their "remarkable restraint", "bravery", and "professional discipline" for not killing all the Panthers present. Photographic evidence was presented of "bullet holes" allegedly made by shots fired by the Panthers, but this was soon challenged by reporters (although the Chicago Tribune initially published these photos in support of the police action). An internal investigation was undertaken, and the assault team was exonerated of any wrongdoing.
Hampton's funeral was attended by 5,000 people, and he was eulogized by such black leaders as Jesse Jackson and Ralph Abernathy, Martin Luther King's successor as head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In his eulogy, Jackson noted that "when Fred was shot in Chicago, black people in particular, and decent people in general, bled everywhere."
Civil rights activists Roy Wilkins and Ramsey Clark (styled as "The Commission of Inquiry into the Black Panthers and the Police") subsequently alleged that the Chicago police had killed Fred Hampton without justification or provocation and had violated the Panthers' constitutional rights against unreasonable search and seizure. "The Commission" further alleged that the Chicago Police Department had imposed a summary punishment on the Panthers.
The federal grand jury did not return any indictment against anyone involved with the planning or execution of the raid. The officers involved in the raid were cleared by a grand jury of any crimes.
Legal and political impacts
According to a 1969 Chicago Tribune report, "The raid ended the promising political career of Cook County State's Atty. Edward V. Hanrahan, who was indicted but cleared with 13 other law-enforcement agents on charges of obstructing justice. Bernard Carey, a Republican, defeated him in the next election, in part because of the support of outraged black voters."
The families of Hampton and Clark filed a US$47.7 million civil suit against the city, state, and federal governments. The case went to trial before Federal Judge J. Sam Perry. After more than 18 months of testimony and at the close of the Plaintiff's case, Judge Perry dismissed the case. The Plaintiffs appealed and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed, ordering the case to be retried. More than a decade after the case had been filed, the suit was finally settled for $1.85 Million. The two families each shared in the settlement.
Jeffrey Haas, author and attorney for the plaintiffs in the federal suit Hampton v. Hanrahan, posited that Chicago was worse off without Hampton:
|“||Of course, there's also the legacy that, without a young leader, I think the West Side of Chicago degenerated a lot into drugs. And without leaders like Fred Hampton, I think the gangs and the drugs became much more prevalent on the West Side. He was an alternative to that. He talked about serving the community, talked about breakfast programs, educating the people, community control of police. So I think that that's unfortunately another legacy of Fred's murder.||”|
In 1990, the Chicago City Council unanimously passed a resolution, introduced by then-Alderman Madeline Haithcock, commemorating Dec. 4, 2004, as "Fred Hampton Day in Chicago". The resolution read in part: "Fred Hampton, who was only 21 years old, made his mark in Chicago history not so much by his death as by the heroic efforts of his life and by his goals of empowering the most oppressed sector of Chicago's Black community, bringing people into political life through participation in their own freedom fighting organization."
Monuments and streets
In March 2006, supporters of Hampton's charity work proposed the naming of a Chicago street in honor of the former Black Panther leader. Chicago's chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police opposed this effort.
On Saturday September 7, 2007, a bust of Hampton was erected outside the Fred Hampton Family Aquatic Center.
Weather Underground reaction
In response to the killings of Black Panther members Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in December, 1969, during a police raid, on May 21, 1970, the Weather Underground issued a "Declaration of War" against the United States government, using for the first time its new name, the "Weather Underground Organization" (WUO); they also adopted fake identities, and decided to pursue covert activities only. These initially included preparations for a bombing of a U.S. military non-commissioned officers' dance at Fort Dix, New Jersey in what Brian Flanagan said had been intended to be "the most horrific hit the United States government had ever suffered on its territory".
We've known that our job is to lead white kids into armed revolution. We never intended to spend the next five to twenty-five years of our lives in jail. Ever since SDS became revolutionary, we've been trying to show how it is possible to overcome frustration and impotence that comes from trying to reform this system. Kids know the lines are drawn: revolution is touching all of our lives. Tens of thousands have learned that protest and marches don't do it. Revolutionary violence is the only way.
Media and popular culture
Although two months earlier, Hampton had criticized the predominately white Weather Underground (also known as the Weathermen) for being "adventuristic, masochistic and Custeristic", Bernardine Dohrn of the Weathermen, which had a close relationship with the Black Panthers in Chicago at the time of Hampton's assassination, said in the documentary The Weather Underground (2002) that the killing of Fred Hampton caused them to "be more grave, more serious, more determined to raise the stakes, and not just be the white people who wrung their hands when black people were being murdered."
Haas wrote an account of Hampton's murder, entitled The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther (2009).
Stephen King refers to Hampton in the novel 11/22/63 (2011), where a character discusses the ripple effect of traveling back in time to prevent President John F. Kennedy's assassination, which the character postulates would give rise to a series of events that could prevent Fred Hampton's assassination, as well.[where?]
Fred Hampton has become very popular in rap and popular music.
The folk punk band Ramshackle Glory refers to Fred Hampton in "First Song, Part 2", followed by an explanation that "justice doesn't flow from police guns, I'm reminded of that all the time."
- Episode 12: A Nation of Law (1968-1971) on YouTube. (This is a link to the first part of the episode; parts two and three can be easily accessed from the link to part one.)
- "Fred Hampton". Spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-08-27.
- Ward Churchill; Jim Vander Wall (1988). Agents of Repression: The FBI's Secret Wars Against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement. p. 66. ISBN 0-89608-293-8.
- Rod Bush (2000). We Are Not What We Seem: Black Nationalism and Class Struggle in the American Century. NYU Press. p. 216. ISBN 978-0-8147-1318-1.
- "Iberia HAMPTON et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Edward V. HANRAHAN et al., Defendants-Appellees, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, September 12, 1979, page 1, paragraph 13."
- FBI Secrets: An Agent's Expose. M. Wesley Swearingen. Boston. South End Press. 1995.
- "Second Cop in Gun Battle Dies, Wounded Describe Nightmare", Chicago Tribune, Nov. 14, 1969, p. 1.
- "No Quarter for Wild Beasts", Chicago Tribune, Nov. 15, 1969, p. 10.
- Bush, Rod (2000). We Are Not What We Seem: Black Nationalism and Class Struggle in the American Century. NYU Press. p. 216. ISBN 978-0-8147-1318-1.
- Berger, Dan (2006). Outlaws of America: the Weather Underground and the politics of solidarity. AK Press. p. 66. ISBN 978-1-904859-41-3.
- Ward Churchill; Jim Vander Wall (2002). The COINTELPRO Papers: Documents from the FBI's Secret Wars Against Dissent. South End Press. p. 358. ISBN 0-89608-648-8.
- Peter Dale Scott (1996). Deep Politics and the Death of JFK. Univ. of California Press. p. 308. ISBN 978-0-520-20519-2.
- Jeffrey Haas (2010). The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther. Lawrence Hill Books. pp. 92, 299, 353. ISBN 978-1-55652-765-4.
- Napoliatno, Jo. "Edward Hanrahan, Prosecutor Tied to '69 Panthers Raid, Dies at 88", The New York Times, June 11, 2009. Retrieved June 13, 2009.
- Dan Berger (2009). The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther. Chicago Review Press. p. 74. ISBN 978-1-55652-765-4.
- "Hampton v. City Of Chicago, et al.". IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS. January 4, 1978. Retrieved 2007-07-19.
- Dan Berger (2009). The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther. Chicago Review Press. p. 92. ISBN 978-1-55652-765-4.
- Berger, Dan (2006) Outlaws of America: the Weather Underground and the politics of solidarity, AK Press, ISBN 978-1-904859-41-3, pp. 132–133
- Ward Churchill; Jim Vander Wall (1988). Agents of Repression: The FBI's Secret Wars Against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement. pp. 69–70. ISBN 0-89608-293-8. -- The primary source cited by Churchill and Vander Wall for the police raid were court transcripts of Iberia Hampton, et al. vs. Plaintiffs-Appellants, v Edward V. Hanrahan, et al., Defendants-Appellees (Nos.77-1968, 77-1210 and 77-1370). In particular, witnesses Harold Bell and Deborah Johnson testified to the police exchange.
- Bennett, Hans (2010). "The Black Panthers and the Assassination of Fred Hampton". Journal of Pan African Studies 3 (6).
- Weather Underground Anon. Prairie Fire: The Politics of Revolutionary Anti-Imperialism. UK, Red Dragon Print Collective, c1970.
- Fred Hampton Jr. Speaks About the Assassination of His Father
- Wilkins, Roy and Ramsey Clark, chairmen. Search and Destroy: A Report by the Commission of Inquiry into the Black Panthers and the Police. New York: Metropolitan Applied Research Center, 1973, 249.
- The Black Panthers and the Assassination of Fred Hampton
- Michael Ervin (January 25, 1990). "The Last Hours of William O'Neal (He was the informant who gave the FBI the floor plan of Fred Hampton's apartment. Last week he ran onto the Eisenhower Expressway and killed himself)". Chicago Reader.
- "The Black Panther Raid and the death of Fred Hampton". Chicago Tribune. December 4, 1969.
- Jeffrey Haas interview with Democracy Now
- Monica Moorehead (December 16, 2004). "CHICAGO: 'Fred Hampton Day' declared". Workers World.
- Village of Maywood Parks and Recreation
- "Group Wants Street Named After Black Panther Fred Hampton-Protesters filled City Hall Today - Susan Murphy-Milano". Movingoutmovingon.bloghi.com. Retrieved 2014-04-12.
- "Maywood street statue honor slain Panther leader Hampton". Itsabouttimebpp.com. 2007-09-09. Retrieved 2014-04-12.
- Democracy Now! | Ex-Weather Underground Member Kathy Boudin Granted Parole
- Weather Underground Declaration of a State of War
- Death of a Black Panther: The Fred Hampton Story
- "The Seeds of Terror". The New York Times. November 22, 1981. p. 4.
- Bernardine Dohrn (2002). The Weather Underground (mp4). Event occurs at 0:34:00. Retrieved March 2, 2012.
- "First Song, part 2 Lyrics". First Song, part 2. Ramshackle Glory. Retrieved 8 February 2014.
- The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther - video report by Democracy Now!
- The Murder of Fred Hampton at the Internet Movie Database (A 1971 documentary film directed by Howard Alk)
- FBI files on Fred Hampton
- 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. 36:48 real audio. Tape: Fred Hampton, Deborah Johnson. Guests: Fred Hampton Jr., Mutulu Olugabala, Rosa Clemente. Interviewer: Amy Goodman. Democracy Now!. Tuesday, March 5, 2002. Retrieved May 12, 2005.
- "Power Anywhere Where There's People" A Speech By Fred Hampton
- National Young Lords Brief notes on Young Lords origins
- The short film Death of a Black Panther: The Fred Hampton Story is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]