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Sat, 06.28.1947

Mark Clark, Black Panther Activist born

Mark Clark

*Mark Clark was born on this date in 1947. He was a Black activist and member of the Black Panther Party.

Mark Clark was born in Peoria, Illinois, to Elder William Clark and Fannie Bradley Clark. Family members said Clark enjoyed reading and art and drew portraits well. He attended Manual High School and Illinois Central College in Peoria. He became active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) at an early age and joined in demonstrating against discrimination in employment, housing, and education. According to John Gwynn, former President of state and local chapters of the NAACP, Clark and his brothers played a role in helping keep other teenagers in line. "He could call for order when older persons or adults could not."

After reading their literature and the Ten Point Program, Clark joined the Black Panther Party and later decided to organize a local Peoria chapter. He went from church to church to find a building to house a free breakfast program. He eventually succeeded when Pastor Blaine Ramsey agreed to allow a free breakfast program. Church members later voted against continuing the breakfast program because of concerns about government monitoring of the Black Panther Party.

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 Clark (age 22) and Fred Hampton (age 21) and causing serious bodily harm to Verlina Brewer, Ronald "Doc" Satchel, Blair Anderson, and Brenda Harris. Sitting in the apartment's front room with a shotgun in his lap, Clark was on security duty. The first shot hit Clark in the heart. He died instantly, and his gun went off as he fell, according to Harris, who watched from the bed in the corner. A federal grand jury determined that the police fired between 82 and 99 shots, including into bedrooms, while most occupants lay sleeping.

Some family members and friends say Mark Clark knew he would be murdered in Chicago. A civil lawsuit was later filed on behalf of the survivors and the relatives of Hampton and Clark. It was resolved in 1982 by a settlement of $1.85 million; the City of Chicago, Cook County, and the federal government each paid one-third to a group of nine plaintiffs. Given revelations about the illegal COINTELPRO program and documents associated with the killings, many scholars now consider Hampton's death an assassination under the FBI's initiative.

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