He officially joined the Black Panther Party in 1968. In the next year, he brokered alliances between the Panthers, the Young Lords, and Young Patriots. After the FBI’s disruption of the Panther’s split with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Hampton became chairman of the Illinois chapter. Before his assassination, he was set to become the Party’s Central Committee Chief of Staff.
Hampton’s effectiveness in uniting leftist activists from Chicago’s Latino and White communities quickly made him a threat to the state. In December 1969, the FBI attained a search warrant for Hampton’s apartment. With the assistance of an informant within the Party, they gained info on its layout. A night before the raid, Hampton taught a political education course at a local church. That night, the aforementioned informant slipped a sleep agent into Hampton’s drink to ensure he wouldn’t awaken during the raid.
Around 5 am, a team of 14 agents broke into the apartment. Mark Clark, a member of the Party, was holding a shotgun assuming security duties. Officers shot Clark upon their entry. He reflexively fired one round into the ceiling. Ballistic evidence reveals it was the only shot fired by the Panthers.
In 1970, survivors of the raid filed a civil suit against the Assistant District Attorney, City of Chicago, Cook County, and the federal government. Judge Joseph Perry dismissed the original suit but after multiple appeals over the course of twelve years), the City lost in a retrial. The three parties settled to pay a total of $1.85 million to the survivors. Assistant district attorney Edward Hanrahan was later indicted (but cleared) on charges of obstructing justice.
Today is the 50 year anniversary of his death. To learn more about Fred Hampton’s life and death, we’ve assembled a list of resources to inform the public.
Archive.org, this documentary features accounts from the Panthers, attornies, and a tour of Hampton’s apartment. The National Archives and Records Administration made the footage available for the public domain. The footage is also available for purchase on Amazon.
Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Ward Churchill served as a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado-Boulder for 17 years. During his tenure, he published this study of the FBI’s disruption of multiple activist groups. The book is available on Amazon.