Because Of Them We Can
By BOTWC Staff
Frederick Allen Hampton Senior joined the Black Panther Party in 1968, Biography.com reports. He rose through the ranks, quickly becoming deputy chairman of the national BP Party and chair of the Illinois chapter. As a result, he became a target; he was assassinated by Chicago police while sleeping in his home during the early morning hours of December 4, 1969. At the time, officers claimed the death of Hampton and Mark Clark, another Black Panther Party leader, was a result of a search warrant execution that had gone wrong. Authorities claimed that BP Party members opened fire and they returned.
A federal grand jury would later uncover the truth, revealing that Chicago police had fired nearly 100 shots with only one shot coming from someone inside the residence. Government officials were subsequently indicted and acquitted, and it would be decades before evidence arose pointing to the Federal Bureau of Investigations as the main culprit behind the tension between Black Panther Party members and the Chicago police force.
In the years since Hampton’s death, he’s become a symbol of revolution and a shining beacon of hope. Documentaries and movies about his impact and tragic death are always sprouting up, the most recent of them being Shaka King’s biopic Judas and the Black Messiah. While there is a lot known about the Chairman and his extraordinary role in the movement, there are still some things you may not know. To help you out, we’ve created a list of 5 important things you may have never learned about Fred Hampton.
Fred Hampton’s family was friends with Emmett Till’s family.
Fred Hampton was born on August 30, 1948, one of three siblings born to Francis and Iberia Hampton. He grew up with his family in the suburbs of Chicago and his family was friends with the Till family before Emmett’s tragic murder in 1955. After Till’s death, the Hampton family moved to Maywood when he was just 10 years old.
Hampton became politicized at an early age.
Hampton attended Proviso East High School where he led the school’s Interracial Committee. He also led a protest at the school advocating in favor of Black girls being able to run for homecoming queen. He graduated with honors from Proviso and led the Youth Council of the NAACP’s West Suburban chapter, growing the membership to more than 500. He worked to advocate for a community pool, which led to an arrest citing “mob action” in 1967.
Chairman Fred was a founder of the Rainbow Coalition.
Fred Hampton was one of the founders of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, growing into a nationally respected leader when he was still a teen. He worked to coordinate a number of community services including free breakfasts and health clinics. In an effort to unite the community and build rapport with local gangs, Hampton partnered with the Puerto Rican Young Lords and the white Young Patriots to form the Rainbow Coalition. Together, they created an alliance to fight against poverty and lack of resources in the community, establishing a fundamental socialist movement in Chicago, Mental Floss reports.
Fred Hampton was only 21 years old when he was killed.
On December 4, 1969, Hampton was asleep at his apartment on Chicago’s west side with his pregnant fiancée. Targeted under J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO program, the FBI was instrumental in creating and stoking the tension between Chicago law enforcement and the Black Panther Party. At 4:45 am, police officers executed a surprise raid on the apartment looking for weapons, killing Hampton and Black Panther Party member Mark Clark. FBI informant William O’Neal provided officers with a layout of Hampton’s apartment and allegedly drugged Hampton the night before. No illegal weapons were found.
The city of Chicago was held liable for violating Hampton’s civil rights, settling for $1.85 million.
In 1970, survivors of the raid sued the city of Chicago for $47.7 million, alleging that the men’s rights had been violated. 12 years later, the city, Cook County, and federal authorities agreed to a settlement, awarding $1.85 million to nine plaintiffs, which included the survivors of the police raid and relatives of Hampton and Clark.
Long Live Chairman Fred Hampton. Because of him, we can!
5 important things you never learned about Fred Hampton. Photo Courtesy of Paul Sequeira/Fair Use Image