This Day in History, August 30th: The Birth of Fred Hampton


Iconic Black Panther Fred Hampton Was Born

Fred Hampton, born on August 30, 1948, helped establish Black Panther Party reading and breakfast programs for children in Chicago and was building a poor people’s movement that would bridge the gap between African Americans and whites. He was murdered by police at the age of 21 before his vision was able to come to fruition.

Hampton was known as “The Chairman” because he was deputy chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party. He was also a member of a local chapter of the NAACP. His leadership abilities enabled him to rise to the position of Youth Council President, where he was able to successfully lobby for the creation of better academic services and recreational facilities for African-American children.

Hampton was a standout student and athlete. He attended Triton College, where he studied pre-law with the hopes of helping people fight police brutality. Hampton became involved in the struggle for civil rights as a teenager when he joined the NAACP Youth Council. He helped to grow the council’s membership to more than 500 members.

Despite finding success within the NAACP, the radical ideas of the Black Panther Party appealed to Hampton. At the time, the Panthers had successfully launched a free breakfast program to feed children and were advocating for self-defense rather than nonviolence, which appealed to Hampton.

His oratory and organizing skills made Hampton an asset. He quickly moved through the ranks, becoming the leader of Chicago’s BPP branch, the chairman of the Illinois BPP and finally the deputy chair of the national Black Panther Party. 

Hampton’s popularity made him a target of the FBI and a subject in the COINTELPRO investigation. The investigation sought to undermine, infiltrate and spread misinformation about various political groups and the activists who belonged to them. The FBI hired agents to infiltrate and sabotage the Black Panther Party, which would ultimately play a role in Hampton’s death.

On the morning of December 4, 1969, officers conducted a raid on the BPP headquarters and opened fire, killing the 21-year-old Hampton and fellow Panther Mark Clark, who was guarding Hampton.

There were other Panthers in the apartment, including his pregnant partner and another who had been wounded and charged with crimes including attempted murder, armed violence and weapons charges. Those charges were dropped when a Department of Justice investigation revealed that Chicago police had fired as many as 99 bullets into the home where Hampton slept. Many in the African-American community were outraged over the raid.

Thousands attended the funeral of the beloved Panther. The family members of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark sued the Chicago Police Department, Cook County and the FBI, but the case was thrown out. However, a new case took place after officials concluded that the law enforcement agencies involved had obstructed justice and the families of Hampton and Clark learned that they would receive a $1.85 million settlement from the local and federal agencies responsible.

In honor of the late Fred Hampton, the Chicago.

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