The childhood home of human rights icon Fred Hampton is now a local historic landmark after the village board voted in suburban Maywood voted unanimously in favor of granting the designation at a regular meeting on April 19.
The two-story apartment building at 804 S. 17th Ave. in Maywood is currently a community gathering space that Hampton’s son, Black Panther Cubs Chairman Fred Hampton Jr., hopes will become a museum.
Fred Hampton was assassinated on Dec. 4, 1969, while sleeping next to his pregnant partner, Akua Njeri, inside their West Side apartment. Hampton Jr., Fred’s only child, as born less than a month later.
The historic local landmark designation means that Hampton House, as it’s now called, will be eligible for numerous financial benefits, such as a property tax freeze and income tax credits for historically appropriate renovations. In addition, any requests for its alteration or demolition must now be reviewed by the Maywood Historic Preservation Commission.
Moments before the historic vote, Hampton Jr. said Hampton House “is bigger than a building, more significant than a structure.”
The Village Council Chambers, 125 S. 5th Ave. in Maywood, where the meeting took place, was packed with community members who supported the landmark proposal. Many of them erupted in applause and chants of “Long live Chairman Fred!” after Hampton Jr.’s comments and just after the board finished voting.
Among the crowd, Trustee Melvin Lightford pointed out, were people who knew Fred Hampton or whose parents knew the slain Black Panther Party leader.
Joe Wilson, a well-known businessman in Maywood who along with wife, Theresa, own the popular T&JJ Supreme Steaks & Catering Services, 718 S. 5th Ave. in Maywood, is a former Black Panther.
“[Joe] came to Chicago from California in that same period of time,” said Lightford. “Talk to him, he was there.”
“I just want to say how honored I am to be here for this moment,” said Trustee Miguel Jones, before complimenting Hampton Jr.
“You’ve been all over the place,” Jones told Hampton Jr. “And you always mention Maywood. I hope one of the things we can do to honor Chairman Fred is to make this a tourist destination for people to visit. I went to Ghana last year and it was an honor to see [portraits of] Chairman Fred on some [people’s] walls.”
Trustee Aaron Peppers echoed similar sentiments as Jones, adding that his father attended the same schools as Fred Hampton, including Irving Elementary School (now Irving Middle School) and Proviso East High School in Maywood.
“In our household, we had to know [Fred], we had to know the struggle, we had to know the history,” Peppers said. “He quizzed us all the time. It was very important. It was instrumental in my life.”
“I’m a lighter shade of Brown,” said Trustee Antonio Sanchez. “But we’re fighting the same fight.”
Maywood Mayor Nathaniel George Booker said the local landmark designation “is just the first step of moving forward in regards to the healing of Maywood to actually pay homage and pay the respect that is due” to the legacy of the Hampton family.
Booker said the village is planning an African American History Tour in Maywood in June that will incorporate aspects of Hampton’s legacy.
During his remarks, Hampton Jr. touched on some parts of his father’s biography. As chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, Hampton was head of the organization’s largest chapter, Hampton Jr. said. Hampton Sr. was assassinated by law enforcement officials inside of his West Side apartment Dec. 4, 1969.
“You have rarely, if ever, heard me say, ‘The police murdered my father.’ You have heard me say, ‘The government assassinated Chairman Fred.’ He authored the Rainbow Coalition [with many representatives of the organization] here today. The free breakfast program fed a minimum of 3,500 children a week,” Hampton Jr. said, before urging community members to understand and tout that rich history.
Tuesday’s vote comes nearly a month after the Maywood Historic Preservation Commission voted unanimously to move the historic landmark nomination process to the village board for a final vote. The brick two-flat was built in 1923.
“The significance of the Hampton home is that it represents worker housing for companies like the nearby American Can Company, which was the largest employer during the Great Depression, and later, African-Americans and Immigrants were actively recruited during World War I due to the labor shortage at the time, further adding to the diverse nature of the Village’s growing residential base,” according to the landmark application.
The home, the application continues, “is credited with being the fertile ground that nurtured a future thought and opinion leader, whose influence and legacy are still felt to this day by many in the community.”