“I am…a revolutionary.”
Fred Hampton was born on August 30, 1948 in Summit, Illinois, and grew up in the Chicago suburb of Maywood. Early on, his leadership capabilities were apparent. After graduating high school in 1966 with honors, he enrolled at Triton Junior College, majoring in pre-law. Through an academic grounding in law, he hoped to serve his people and his community.
He led a 500-strong youth branch of the NAACP, hoping to bring social change nonviolently and from below by working with the masses through community organizing. Hampton joined the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party in 1968 and moved to downtown Chicago to network with the people from his new base.
Over the next year, Hampton worked to change the social base of the city of Chicago. Most notably, he formed a non-aggression pact between several rival street gangs, and also worked towards founding a class-conscious, intra-ethnic network of multi-racial organizations that included the Young Lords Party (which organized Latino youth), the Young Patriots organization (which organized white youth from Appalachia), the Red Guard Party (Asian Americans), the Brown Berets (Chicanos from the Western United States) and SDS (mainly white youth from college campuses).
This intra-ethnic organizing and peace treaty negotiation between street gangs was seen by the FBI as a dangerous threat to the “internal stability of the United States.” Hampton was legally hounded and eventually assassinated on the morning of December 4th, 1969, by the Chicago Police Department. His death occurred while sleeping heavily due to being effectively sedated by a large dose of a tranquilizer administered by an FBI informant, William O’Neal. He was 21 years old.
Hampton was on the verge of merging a street gang with thousands of members, the Blackstone Rangers, with the Black Panther Party, which would have doubled the size of the national party. He was also on the verge of becoming Chief of Staff of the Black Panther Party Central Committee. Had he lived, he would have spread revolutionary theory and practice to untold millions of working class black people.
Chairman Fred Hampton worked for our freedom in his 21 years of life and left us invaluable lessons to be carried down through the generations. His legacy is to be upheld, and his revolutionary practice and theory is to be studied by all black people who long to be free.