Fred Hampton 08/30/48 – 12/4/69

Tuesday (August 30) was the birthday of Chicago Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton, who, with Mark Clark, was assassinated by Chicago police on December 4, 1969. Both men were killed during an early morning raid organized by the office of Cook County State’s Attorney Edward Hanrahan. Hanrahan’s team of 14 heavily-armed murderers in police uniforms stormed the apartment with orders to kill. Hampton was sleeping in a bedroom with Deborah Johnson (who was eight months pregnant with their child) when the police entered the premises at 4 am and started shooting without cause. Mark Clark was the first to die. Sitting on guard duty in the front room of the apartment armed with a shotgun, he fired the weapon only once as a reflex action as he was fatally shot by the police. Out of the more than 100 shots fired during the attack, it was the only shot fired by the Panthers.

Despite the sounds of gunfire and the noise of the police moving through the apartment, Fred Hampton never awoke from his sleep. Earlier that night while eating a late dinner Hampton unknowingly consumed a dose of secobarbital, a powerful sleeping pill. BPP member William O’Neal, who was secretly working for the FBI as an informant, prepared the dinner and slipped the pill into Hampton’s drink as part of the plan arranged beforehand with the assassins. O’Neal also gave the police a floor-plan of the apartment with an X marking the exact location of Hampton’s bed (O’Neal later committed suicide after admitting his role in the raid).

Hampton was shot twice in the back of his head at close range by his murderers. His body was dragged from the mattress where he had been sleeping to the entrance to his bedroom. The police then trained their fire on the other Panthers in the apartment who were hiding in another bedroom. They wounded them, beat them, dragged them outside, and charged them with the attempted murder of the police officers.

While “black” Chicagoans mourned (5,000 turned out for Hampton’s funeral), the police were celebrated in the media as heroes. Prior to the killing, the Chicago Tribune newspaper had called for all members of the BBP to be shot on sight. The murders of Fed Hampton and Mark Clark may have been carried out by a local hit squad, but it was part of a vast operation run by the FBI. COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program) involved police and government intelligence agencies in a campaign to target and “neutralize “black” activists and leftist movements nationwide.

See also: Church Committee Final Report on Cointelpro.

Zine Library: COINTELPRO: The FBI’s Secret Counter Intelligence Program

Google Films: COINTELPRO: FBI’s War On Black America (53 min. film)

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3 thoughts on “Fred Hampton 08/30/48 – 12/4/69

  1. Pingback: The Murder of Fred Hampton (1971) | Ourstorian

  2. Excellent summary of a major American government crime. Do you know Dana Chandler’s painting “Fred Hampton’s Door”?

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