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today would've been the 69th birthday of fred hampton, a black american activist i greatly admire. he was murdered 48 years ago by the FBI.
what made the 21 year old hampton so threatening to the FBI that they would wage a war against him was his belief in racial solidarity.
fred hampton believed that only by bringing together marginalized people of ALL races could we defeat oppression.
during hampton's time with the black panthers, he united street gangs and militant groups across racial lines to fight for justice TOGETHER.
this became known as the rainbow coalition. it was made up of groups like the black panthers, the young patriots, and the young lords.
these were black, white, native indian, asian, mexican, and latinx people, students, working class, united in defeating racism and poverty.
hampton arranged ceasefires between chicago street gangs, moved members away from crime, and got them involved positively in the community.
hampton's most inspiring achievements are the many community programs he organized, from free breakfast for kids to free medical services.
note: the black panthers were largely invested in building social programs for vulnerable communities across the country, not just hampton.
threatened by the rise of civil rights movements, the FBI launched COINTELPRO, a series of illegal covert ops to stifle groups like the BPP.
FBI director j. edgar hoover felt especially threatened by hampton's charisma, organizing skills, and popularity. he had him in his sights.
in 1968, the FBI recruited a man named william o'neal to infiltrate the illinois black panthers and report findings back to them.
there were insiders in other chapters too, but they mostly just reported the BPP giving away free shit and feeding kids. hoover was pissed.
when spying wasn't enough, the FBI initiated disagreements and fights from inside the BPP, manufacturing rifts and driving organizers apart.
the FBI published a gory coloring book under the panthers' name to scare away white allies & soil their reputation among the impressionable.
o'neal would advocate violence & crime. he built an electric chair in the panthers HQ to "deter informants." hampton thought he was "crazy."
meanwhile hoover was growing impatient. he wanted hampton and the panthers destroyed. so o'neal drew him a map of hampton's apartment.
according to o'neal, the apartment where hampton lived with his fiancée was where the panthers kept their stockpile of weapons.
one night in 1969, hampton and fellow panthers sat down for a late dinner in his apartment. o'neal slipped a sedative in hampton's drink.
while hampton and his friends slept, a tactical unit from the cook county attorney's office, backed by chicago PD, and the FBI, stormed in.
first they murdered mark clark, a 22 year old black panthers activist who was up guarding the house in the living room with a shotgun.
as clark fell to the floor, a death spasm reportedly caused him to pull the trigger. this was only shot the panthers fired during the raid.
meanwhile, the FBI fired ~100 shots into the house of sleeping men and women, including hampton, who slept beside his pregnant fiancée.
out of respect, i will not show hampton's dead body. but here's the conversation his fiancée overheard before he was murdered by police.
officers dragged hampton's body out of bed and left it in the doorway while they shot, brutalized, and then arrested the surviving panthers.
officials lied to press about the nature of the raid, claiming they acted in self-defense. they were praised for their restraint & bravery.
in 1990, FBI informant william o'neal admitted his involvement in the raid that killed hampton and clark before committing suicide.
while law enforcement lied and manufactured evidence for an increasingly skeptical public over 5,000 people attended fred hampton's funeral.
the FBI and chicago PD may have planned & executed the murder of fred hampton, but his legacy of class-conscious racial solidarity lives on.
hampton's commitment to community building across racial lines and helping the sick and poor is something everyone needs to aspire to.
rest in power, fred hampton.
sources: the assassination of fred hampton by jeffrey haas. the murder of fred hampton ('71). official FBI documents
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