This week marked the 38th anniversary of the death of Fred Hampton, Sr., chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party. A vigil was held Dec. 4 at noon by his son, Fred Hampton, Jr., and his mother, Akua Njeri, in front of 2337 W. Monroe on Chicago’s West Side where Hampton and Mark Clark were killed by Chicago police. A five-minute raised-fist salute was held while everyone stood in silence. Afterward, Fred Hampton Jr. talked about the work he is doing around the world.
“I just returned from Brazil, not as a tourist but working with people on victims of terrorism,” he said, adding that every day is Sept. 11 for blacks and other colonized people. Hurricane Katrina was terrorism, miseducation of our youth is terrorism and various forms of chemical and biological warfare on people is terrorism, he said.
On Dec. 4, 1969, Rita Cloyd (my step-sister) and I were two of the first civilians on the scene at 2337 W. Monroe, early in the morning after the shooting. It is a picture still vivid in my memory because there was so much blood and the walls were full of bullet holes. The room where Hampton and his nine-month pregnant girlfriend Deborah Johnson (now Akua Njeri) slept looked like a bomb had gone off in it. The back door of the small two-flat had been broken down and debris was all over the floor. The bedroom where Mark Clark had slept was in such disarray it was hard to make out the room. Seeing all of the bullets holes was enough to send cold chills down your spine.
During the vigil, Akua recounted that terrible night: “I remember the police looking at me and stating, ‘Look, we got a broad here.’ I asked for something to cover my stomach but that was not done. As the police brought me into the living room, there was Mark Clark lying in a pool of blood. I remember hearing two more gunshots from where Chairman Fred was. One of the police said, “He’s good and dead now.””
Akua gave birth three weeks after Fred Sr.’s death.
After the death of Fred Hampton, many civil rights leaders as well as some Washington politicians alleged that the Chicago police had murdered Hampton/Clark without justification or provocation and had violated their constitutional rights. We later learned that a “mole” had been brought into the Black Panther Party to report back to the FBI. William O’Neal was brought into the party and soon befriended Hampton. He was also providing the FBI detailed information on Hampton’s coming and goings. O’Neal drew a diagram showing where Hampton/Njeri slept and the location of the furniture. A drink Hampton consumed was allegedly found to be laced with a powerful sedative, provided to O’Neal by the FBI. At 4:45 a.m. on Dec. 4 a heavily armed team of police surrounded the house at 2337 W. Monroe, knocking on the door stating, “It’s Tom-Tommy Gun,” according to Njeri.
The families of Hampton and Clark filed suit against the city, state and federal governments. After 10 years, the suit was finally settled for an undisclosed sum. The Chicago City Council passed a resolution in 1990 declaring “Fred Hampton Day.” In 2006, Fred Hampton Jr. and supporters proposed the naming of Monroe Street in honor of his father. However, controversy and opposition by the Fraternal Order of Police sidelined that effort.
Fred Hampton Sr. was born Aug. 20, 1948 and today would be 59 years of age. He was born in Chicago and grew up in the western suburb of Maywood. An honors student, after graduating in 1966, he enrolled at Triton College (River Grove) where he was majoring in pre-law. He also was the youth leader of the Westside Branch NAACP. His brother, Bill Hampton, continues to champion his brother’s community activism. There is also a park in Maywood named for the young leader.
Hampton founded the Chicago chapter of the Black Panther Party in November 1968. He immediately established a community service program. This included the provision of free breakfasts for school children and a medical clinic that did not charge patients for treatment. He also taught political education classes and instigated a community control of police project. (Source: Spartacus Education)