Fred Hampton: “Live for the People, Die for the People”
Forty-two years ago, on December 4th, 1969, Chicago police raided Black Panther Fred Hampton’s apartment and shot and killed him in his bed.
He was just twenty-one years old.
Fred Hampton was born on August 30, 1948, in Chicago, Illinois and grew up in Maywood, a suburb to the west of the city. Following his graduation, Hampton became active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), assuming leadership of the Youth Council of the organization’s West Suburban Branch. In his capacity as an NAACP youth organizer, Hampton began to show signs of his natural leadership abilities; from a community of 27,000, he was able to muster a youth group 500-members strong.
Hampton was quickly attracted to the Black Panthers’ ten-point program of a mix of black self-determination and certain elements of Maoism. Hampton joined the Party and relocated to downtown Chicago. 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 (albeit tenuous) alliance between the BPP, Students for a Democratic Society, the Blackstone Rangers, the Young Lords, and the Young Patriots.
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.
The local Chicago police and the FBI launched an all-out assault on the Black Panthers and their allies, characterizing the group as just a criminal gang.
In the early hours of the 4th December, 1969, the Panther headquarters was raided by the police for the fourth time. The police later claimed that the Panthers opened fire and a “shoot-out” took place. In fact, Fred Hampton never fired a shot, and he was executed by a shot to the head while he laid asleep in his bed. Fellow Panther Mark Clark was also killed.