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Mon, 08.30.1948

Fred Hampton, Black Panther Activist born

Fred Hampton

*Fred Hampton was born on this date in 1948. He was a Black activist, Marxist-Leninist, and revolutionary socialist.

Fredrick Allen Hampton was born in present-day Summit Argo, Illinois, and moved with his parents to Maywood, Illinois, 10 years later, where he grew up. Both are suburbs of Chicago. His parents had moved north from Louisiana, as part of the Great Migration of Blacks in the early 20th century out of the South. They both worked at the Argo Starch Company in Summit Argo. As a youth, Hampton was gifted both in the classroom and athletically and hoped to play center field for the New York Yankees. At 10 years old, he started hosting weekend breakfasts for other children from the neighborhood, cooking the meals himself in what could be described as a precursor to the Panthers’ free breakfast program.

In high school, he led walkouts protesting black students' exclusion from the competition for homecoming queen and calling on officials to hire more black teachers and administrators. Hampton graduated from Proviso East High School with honors and varsity letters, and a Junior Achievement Award, in 1966. At that time, he started identifying with the Third World socialist struggles, as well as reading communist revolutionaries Che Guevara, Ho Chi Minh, and Mao Zedong. Shortly after, Hampton urged not only for peace in the Vietnam War but also for North Vietnam's victory. He came to prominence in Chicago as chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party (BPP), and deputy chairman of the national BPP. In this capacity, he founded the antiracist, anti-class Rainbow Coalition a prominent multicultural political organization that initially included the Black Panthers, Young Patriots (which organized poor whites), and the Young Lords (which organized Hispanics), and an alliance among major Chicago street gangs to help them end infighting and work for social change.

He enrolled at Triton Junior College in nearby River Grove, Illinois, where he majored in pre-law. He planned to become more familiar with the legal system to use it as a defense against the police. When he and fellow Black Panthers later followed police in his community supervision program, watching out for police brutality, they used his knowledge of the law as a defense. Hampton became active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and assumed leadership of its West Suburban Branch's Youth Council. In his capacity as an NAACP youth organizer, he began to demonstrate natural leadership abilities; from a community of 27,000, he was able to muster a youth group of 500-members strong. He worked to get more, and better recreational facilities established in the neighborhoods and to improve educational resources for Maywood's impoverished black community.

In the predawn hours of December 4, 1969, Chicago Police stormed into the apartment of BPP State Chairman Fred Hampton at 2337 West Monroe Street, killing both Hampton (age 21) and Mark Clark (age 22) and causing serious bodily harm to Verlina Brewer, Ronald "Doc" Satchel, Blair Anderson, and Brenda Harris. Hampton and Deborah Johnson, who was eight-and-a-half months pregnant with their child, were sleeping in the south bedroom. Clark, sitting in the front room of the apartment with a shotgun in his lap, was on security duty.

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Your door is shut against my tightened face, And I am sharp as steel with discontent; But I possess the courage and the grace To bear my anger proudly... THE WHITE HOUSE by Claude McKay.
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