Fifty years ago today, the Chicago Police Department, the Cook County State’s Attorney, and the FBI assassinated Illinois Black Panther Party Deputy Chairman Fred Hampton. In a predawn raid around 4:30 AM on December 4, 1969, police officers attached to the State’s Attorney’s office, working with information supplied by the FBI, stormed Hampton’s apartment on the West Side with an enormous arsenal of weapons. Firing about 100 bullets into the apartment, police severely injured multiple people there, killed Mark Clark of the Peoria, IL Panthers, and assassinated Hampton execution-style in his bed after the initial barrage of bullets failed to kill him.
At the time of his death, Hampton was inarguably one of the most dynamic and important political organizers and activists in Chicago’s history. He was committed simultaneously to Black liberation, to multiracial organizing with Puerto Rican, white, and Indigenous organizations against the ravages of capitalism, and to challenging the cynicism and corruption of the formal political system both in and beyond Chicago. He was 21 years old when they murdered him and would be the same age as my father were he alive today.
I wrote about Hampton and about his assassination in my first book, for those who are interested. I am also currently working on a true biography of Hampton, details of which will be forthcoming in the new year.
In the meantime, this piece by William Lee in the Tribune offers a fine overview of the assassination and the context in which it occurred, if not a particularly complete analysis of Hampton’s and the Panthers’ politics.
Rest in power, Chairman Fred.