Forty Years Later, We Remember Fred Hampton’s Life and Legacy

By Guest Columnist Dec 04, 2009

By Juell Stewart Today marks the 40th anniversary of the murder of Fred Hampton, a gifted leader and community organizer who was poised to become the Black Panther Party’s Chief of Staff before the Chicago Police assassinated him on December 4, 1969. The late 1960s was a time of tremendous racial and economic upheaval in Chicago. Entire communities throughout the West Side of the city were completely devastated following the riots that were in response to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination in April 1968. Four months later, the whole world watched as Chicago Police brutally assaulted protesters at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Mayor Richard J. Daley and the City Council were systematically starving Black communities of resources like schools and jobs, which effectively served to disenfranchise an entire segment of the population and leave them out of Hampton became involved with the Illinois Black Panther Party in November 1968, after completing a pre-law track at junior college and serving as a Youth Organizer for the West Suburban Chicago branch of the NAACP. He was a talented organizer who believed in the inherent power of the people to solve problems in their own communities. Despite the militant image the Black Panther Party has been saddled with in popular media, they were known throughout the Black community for providing free breakfasts for children, offering political education courses and monitoring police activity. Above all else, Hampton and the Black Panthers believed that the only way to start a revolution was at the ground level. They were fighting against a reality that repeatedly pushed people of color to the margins and silenced any discourse they sought to have within the political framework of the status quo.