On August 30, 1948, Fred Hampton was born in Maywood, the suburb area of Summit, Illinois. In his youth, Hampton excelled in the classroom and in athletics, and also had a dream of becoming the center fielder for the New York Yankees. In 1966, he graduated from high school then went on to attend Triton Junior College majoring in pre-law. He used this knowledge to patrol the local police in River Grove, Illinois. He and others would follow law enforcement to help protect the citizens against police brutality. He would later go on to become the leader of the Youth Counsel of the west suburban branch of the NAACP.
As the leader of the Youth Counsel, he was able to build an organization of 500 youth members within River Grove. He also used his position to improve the neighborhoods in which they existed. The council focused on improving educational and recreational resources in black communities.
In 1968, Fred Hampton moved to Chicago, Illinois and became a member of the Black Panther Party after learning about them through their rise to fame. The Black Panther Party with Fred Hampton as a member was making vast improvements within the neighborhoods of Chicago, including the organizing of a nonviolent pact between the most powerful gangs of Chicago. That same year Hampton held a press conference to announce that a truce had been made to stop the violence and would be kept by the gangs. Hampton called the joining of the gangs and organizations the “rainbow coalition,” a term Jessie Jackson would later take and use.
Hampton went on to become the leader of the Chicago chapter of the Black Panther Party where he held weekly rallies, worked with local clinics, taught political education classes, and supervised the Chicago Police. He provided a free breakfast program for the black Chicago community, ensuring community members were able to eat. Hampton left the Chicago chapter of the Black Panthers to become the chairman of the Illinois State Black Panther Party, and later obtained the position of Deputy Chairman of the National B.P.P.
The leadership of the B.P.P was under attack by the FBI and was beginning to fall apart. As the leadership of the B.P.P. declined, Hampton was becoming more of a target for the FBI. He quickly became an enemy of J. Edgar Hoover, who saw Hampton and the B.P.P as a threat to the U.S. Government. Hampton’s mother’s phone was tapped by the FBI and a document of over 4,000 pages was created about him. The FBI worked overtime to dismantle the B.P.P and used every tactic they could. In the end, they managed to separate the B.P.P from its community alliances.
Hampton was close to creating a merger between the B.P.P. and the south side street gang, but tragedy struck first. With Hampton being considered an enemy by the FBI, a raid of his apartment was organized by Edward Allen, who was the State Attorney for the Office of Cook County. On December 3, 1969, Fred Hampton’s apartment was raided by the Chicago Police Department. Hampton was drugged by FBI informant William O’Neal and then shot and killed while asleep. Hampton left behind his pregnant wife, who gave birth to their son Fred Hampton, Jr. four weeks later.
Fred Hampton was unlawfully killed in the midst of helping to create a better community for black people in America. He worked hard to ensure that black America lived better, and even though Fred Hampton was killed by the FBI and the Chicago Police Department, his legacy and his work will never be forgotten. We will work hard today to make sure we follow in the footsteps of Fred Hampton to improve our communities. Chairman Fred Hampton, Sr. we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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