“You can jail a Revolutionary, but you can’t jail the Revolution” ~Fred Hampton
Fred Hampton was born on August 30, 1948 in Maywood, Illinois. He was gifted in academics and athletics. As a child, he wanted to play for the New York Yankees when he finished school, but ended up studying pre-law at Triton Junior College. Hampton was inspired to study law to use it as a defense against police and their brutality. Around this time, he became active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), leading their Youth Council of the organization’s West Suburban Branch. He increased the Council’s membership to over 500 members.
While Hampton was organizing youth on behalf of the NAACP, the Black Panther Party (BPP) was gaining national popularity. The Party’s Ten-Point Program that integrated black self-determination and elements of Maoism motivated Hampton to join and relocate to Chicago. Hampton’s leadership abilities were apparent. He brokered a nonaggression pact between Chicago’s most powerful and dangerous street gangs. His personal charisma combined with his organizing skills and gift of speech allowed him to be noticed and quickly rise within the Black Panthers. Hampton became the leader of the Chicago chapter. His duties included organizing rallies, working with the People’s Clinic, and the Free Breakfast Program. The success Hampton had with the BPP, captured the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
During the early morning hours of December 4, 1969, Chicago police raided Hampton’s Monroe Street apartment. Using the information gathered from FBI informant William O’Neal, local officials stormed the apartment and opened fire. Fred Hampton and fellow panther Mark Clark were killed. The remaining seven Panthers that were present in the apartment were arrested and indicted by a grand jury on charges of attempted murder, armed violence, and a variety of weapons charges. These charges were eventually dropped after a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation discovered that Chicago Police fired ninety-nine shots, while the Panthers only shot twice. The complete FBI headquarters file on the investigation into the raid on the Black Panthers is available at the FBI Records Vault.
Records at the National Archives relating to Fred Hampton include the FBI and Department of Justice case files investigating his death, and US District Court files relating to the subsequent civil suit. These records can be found on the Black Power Portal/ Fred Hampton page. The National Archives has also welcomed filmmaker Stanley Nelson to discuss his documentary films, including The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution.