Fred Hampton: The Young Star of the Black Panther Party

Table of Contents

Fred Hampton Mural, Hoyne Ave. at W. Madison St., Chicago, 1989

Fred Hampton Mural, Hoyne Ave. at W. Madison St., Chicago, 1989

Source: Library of Congress

Who was Fred Hampton? 

Fredrick Allen Hampton (1948–1969) was a prominent member of the Black Panther Party. Charismatic and intelligent, Hampton quickly shot up the ranks of the group, reaching the rank of deputy chairman through the strength of his community programs.

His leadership and influence, along with the Panthers in general, greatly concerned the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). So much so that the Agency worked to eliminate its leaders (including Hampton). At the tender age of 21, the police raided his apartment and shot him in his sleep.

Despite the Panthers’ gun-toting ways, their greatest contributions were their efforts to help out underserved communities. Black, Latino, Asian, you name it. They recognized that proper and fair economic opportunities needed to be created in order for minorities to thrive in America. To this day, many hardworking individuals, regardless of their race, might not be receiving the wages they deserve. In this article, the Zero Theft Movement will cover Fred Hampton’s life and how it potentially relates to the U.S. economy now.

Martin Luther King Jr. sought to achieve economic justice for all Americans. Through slavery, redlining due to the National Housing Act, wage discrimination, and much more, the Black community has bore serious economic injustices. The U.S. economy was rigged against them, but we might have an even bigger economic problem on our hands…


Fred Hampton’s Promising Beginnings

Born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, Fred Hampton displayed his aptitude for academics, athletics, and activism. He dreamed of playing center field for the New York Yankees, but his love of baseball could not trump his passion for helping others. 

At just 10 years old, he hosted weekend communal breakfasts for underfed children in his neighborhood. He handled all the cooking himself, unknowingly planting the seed for the Black Panther Party’s Free Breakfast for Children Program. His activism developed as he aged. A star student at Proviso East High School, he led walkouts protesting the exclusion of black students from homecoming elections and calling for the hiring of black teachers and administrators.

After graduating high school, Hampton enrolled at Triton Junior College in River Grove, Illinois, He majored in pre-law in order to familiarize himself with the legal system, believing this knowledge would help him defend the Black community against police harassment and/or brutality. While earning his degree, he joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and soon took on a leadership role at its West Suburban Branch’s Youth Council. Once again he displayed his talents, attracting 500 youth from a community of 27,000. He endeavored to improve and increase the number of recreational and educational facilities in his jurisdiction. 

The Rise of the Panthers

Fred Hampton’s success with the NAACP occurred concurrently with the explosive growth of the Panthers in the late 60s. Co-founders Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, while attending Merritt College in Oakland, had developed the Black Panther 10 point program, a manifesto calling for an end to police brutality and economic inequality. Hampton immediately took to the organization’s radical approach, joining its first Illinois chapter in November 1968. 

Hampton rose to the ranks quickly due to his many successful initiatives. His greatest achievement, perhaps, was his pivotal role in forming the Rainbow Coalition, an anti-racist, class-conscious alliance among Chicago’s biggest and baddest gangs. Hampton proved so influential that he convinced the confederate-flag-wielding Young Patriots Organization and the Puerto Rican Young Lords to agree to a nonaggression pact with the Panthers. He argued that the years of tragic, pointless conflict had merely kept them all impoverished. 

The Rainbow Coalition continued to expand and diversify, with the participation of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the Brown Berets, A.I.M., and the Red Guard Party. The multicultural alliance came together to combat poverty, racism, corruption, police brutality, poor housing, and education. Although each brought unique experiences to the coalition, they bonded over shared frustrations and inequities. Collective demonstrations and protests strengthened all members’ resistance efforts.

The Black Panthers and the Young Patriots Organization holding a press conference in 1969

The Black Panthers and the Young Patriots Organization holding a press conference in 1969

Source: The Conversation

Success followed success. Hampton, by 1969, had taken on the leadership role of the Chicago chapter. He led and participated in a wide variety of resistance efforts, including strikes, daily political education classes, and a ‘community watch’ of the police. Hampton also played a major part in establishing free medical clinics and the aforementioned Breakfast Program in Chicago. The latter took off immediately, expanding to 45 locations nationwide and feeding thousands of children on a daily basis by 1972.

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The Growing Target On Hampton’s Back

Despite the Panthers’ militant ways, their most dangerous ‘weapon’ arguably was their survival programs (e.g. free medical clinics). It’s hard to look unfavorably upon a group that feeds kids free of charge. The success of the Panthers led FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to claim, in 1969, “the Black Panther Party, without question, represents the greatest threat to internal security of the country.” He vowed to end the organization before it could challenge the status quo any further. 

The FBI had already launched its covert and illegal COINTELPRO initiative in 1956. These projects sought to infiltrate, disrupt, discredit, and sometimes even dissolve American political organizations the FBI deemed subversive. Hoover, as you can tell from the quote above, had identified the Black Panther Party as public enemy #1.

An article published by the University of California Berkely claims: “The FBI responded in full force, spreading ominous rumors to incite the group to violence, and even murder. As the Library’s documents show, when conflict arose between the Black Panther Party and the US Organization, another Black Power group, FBI officials directed field offices to ‘exploit all avenues of creating further dissension’ and to submit regular reports on ‘imaginative and hard-hitting counterintelligence measures aimed at crippling the BPP.’ One ‘imaginative’ suggestion? Sending a fake letter from US to the Black Panthers warning that US planned to ‘ambush leaders of the BPP in Los Angeles,’ as noted in a 1968 memo in the Library’s database.” 

The Agency successfully infiltrated the Panthers, ruining the organization from the inside. Many of its prominent leaders, including Newton and Seale, were either locked up or deceased. Consequently, Hampton continued to increase in prominence and position, attaining the position of Central Committee Chief of Staff.

The Assassination of Fred Hampton

Leading up to the date of Fred Hampton’s death, leaked COINTELPRO documents revealed that the FBI got William O’Neal, one of its informers, to provide a layout of Fred Hampton’s apartment. O’Neal did not know how the Agency would use the information, but he received praise from his contact in the FBI. 

On the night of December 3, 1969, the 21-year-old Hampton finished up teaching a class at a local church and dined with a few of his fellow Panthers at his apartment. O’Neal had prepared the meal. The Cook County chemist later found Seconal, a barbituate, in Hampton’s blood. Those in the apartment eventually fell asleep, wholly unaware of what would happen next. 

At 4:00 a.m., fourteen Chicago police officers raided the apartment with a search warrant to confiscate any weapons and explosives. Per a Newsweek report, “a federal investigation showed that only one shot was fired by the Panthers. Police, on the other hand, fired 82 to 99 shots.”

Four of six Black Panthers inside the apartment had sustained critical wounds. The other two, Mark Clark and Fred Hampton, were dead. 

The alleged man behind the raid, Edward Hanrahan (the Cook County state attorney), held a press conference the next day, claiming the officers had resorted to violence in self defense. The Agency also conducted an internal investigation, which concluded that the officers involved in the raid had “used lawful means to overcome the assault.”

Thousands attended Fred Hampton’s funeral

Thousands attended Fred Hampton’s funeral

Source: Atlanta Black Star

In 1982, the government finally agreed to a $1.85 million settlement involving the families of Hampton, Clark, as well as the other survivors of the 1969 raid. However, G. Flint Taylor, one of the plaintiff’s attorneys, told reporters, ”The settlement is an admission of the conspiracy that existed between the F.B.I. and Hanrahan’s men to murder Fred Hampton.”

Fight the Rigged Economy with the Zero Theft Movement

Through slavery, redlining, wage discrimination, lack of economic opportunities, and much more, the Black community has bore the brunt of the rigged economy in the past. While far from a comprehensive statistic, the Economic Policy Institute found that black workers are paid 73 cents to every “white dollar.” 

Fred Hampton and the Panthers recognized the importance of creating an economy that actually worked for as many Americans as possible. To live a secure and healthy life arguably should be a basic right, especially for one of the most productive countries in the world. It’s about time we took charge and started figuring out whether the system is actually rigged against us. Without strong proof, we cannot reasonably expect to create reforms. 

We at the Zero Theft Movement have created an independent voting platform where you and your fellow citizens work together to calculate the most accurate estimate for the monetary costs of corruption in the United States. 

The public investigates potential problem areas, and everyone votes on whether (1) theft is or isn’t occurring in a specific area of the economy, and (2) how much is being stolen or possibly saved. Through direct democracy, we can collectively decide where the problem areas exist and start working on addressing them systematically. 

Only through hard evidence can we prove where the rigged parts of the economy exist and force Congress to hold all the bad actors accountable. 

Standard Disclaimer

The Zero Theft Movement does not have any interest in partisan politics/competition or attacking/defending one side. We seek to eradicate theft from the U.S economy. In other words, how the wealthy and powerful rig the system to steal money from us, the everyday citizen. We need to collectively fight against crony capitalism in order for us to all profit from an ethical economy.   

Terms like ‘steal,’ ‘theft,’ and ‘crime’ will frequently appear throughout the article. Zero Theft will NOT adhere strictly to the legal definitions of these terms (since congress sells out). We have broadly and openly defined terms like ‘steal’ and ‘theft’ to refer to the rigged economy and other debated unethical acts that can cause citizens to lose out on money they deserve to keep.  

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