Book tells story of Black Panther leader’s work, death

Bill Hampton

Forty years ago, the Illinois Black Panther Party lost its chairman and another member in an apparent one-way gun battle with Chicago police on the West Side. Now, a new book details the “assassination” of Chairman Fred Hampton, the man behind the Black Panther movement.

“The media only talks about the militia aspect. They forget about the kids he fed and all the good he tried to do in the community,” the slain Panther’s brother, Bill Hampton, told the Defender, explaining the need for the book, The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther.

The book, written by Jeffrey Haas, an attorney who represented Hampton and the Panther Party in the 1960s, also touches on Fred Hampton’s early years that helped “mold him as a freedom fighter,” Bill Hampton said.

The chairman and fellow Panther Mark Clark were ambushed in a raid by Chicago police on December 4, 1969. Police entered his apartment in the 2300 block of West Monroe Street and fired at least 99 shots, versus one shot fired by the opposing side. He was 21 years old at the time of his death.

That location has been dubbed “Ground Zero” by Hampton’s son, Fred Hampton Jr. A few years after his death a legal scholarship was named in his honor, The Fred Hampton Memorial Legal Assistance Scholarship Fund. Hampton desired to become an attorney to help others in his community. His family established the fund to encourage the study of law within the Black community.

“Fred was always interested in making sure he did what he could to help the Black community. He would admire Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Marcus Garvey, among others. He was a self-starter and really got into it as a teen. We went to Proviso East High School in Maywood and he was the head of the interracial cross-section committee. He wasted no time getting on the front lines and working hard behind the scenes,” his brother said.

When Hampton turned 18, he refused to register for the draft. He felt his time could be better served at home, according to his brother.

“He couldn’t let his community down, especially when he saw on a regular basis that people were hungry and being robbed out of medical services. He vowed to help and urged others to bring their skills back to the community. He always used the term, ‘You can’t half step,’” said Bill Hampton. Fred Hampton was honored in September 2007 with an honorary street name and statue in his honor in Maywood, where he grew up. The former Oak Street is now known as Fred Hampton Way and the statue sits in front of the Fred Hampton Family Aquatic Center.

The Chicago Defender will host a book signing April 17 at 1 p.m. at the Defender’s office, 4445 S. King Dr. For more information on the book signing event, please call 312-225-2400 or 708-681-0025.

Copyright 2010 Chicago Defender

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