Welcome to the “Black History Month” edition of the Evolving Man Project’s ‘Evolved Man of the Week’ profile. Each week in February, we will highlight a historical black male figure that embodies what it meant to be an evolved man, famous and non-famous alike. The world needs to know their stories and deeds. This week’s honor goes to activist, orator, revolutionary, notable Black Panther, and Chicago legend Fred Hampton. Fred Hampton was a gifted orator and charismatic speaker; here Mr. Hampton speaks out on the Black Panther’s role in combating police brutality:
“I am the people, I’m not the pig. You got to make a distinction. And the people are going to have to attack the pigs. The people are going to have to stand up against the pigs. That’s what the Panthers is doing, that’s what the Panthers are doing all over the world.”
Fred Hampton was born in Summit, IL in 1948. He grew up in Maywood, IL, a western suburb of Chicago. After high school, Hampton enrolled at Triton Junior College in nearby River Grove, Illinois, where he majored in pre-law. He planned to become familiar with the legal system, to use it as a form of resistance against police harassment and intimidation. He and fellow Black Panthers would monitor police, watching out for police brutality throughout the West and South side neighborhoods of Chicago.The Panthers used this knowledge of the law as a defense and a tool to raise community awareness around their legal rights as citizens. The same tactics utilized by Black Panther Party founders, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale in Oakland, CA in the mid-1960s. Fred was an amazing community organizer. He was once able to broker a peace deal between Chicago’s rival gangs and had a keen ability to bring together large crowds of diverse people in the cause of social justice. Fred Hampton coined the term ‘rainbow coalition’ as he saw himself and the Black Panther Party inspiring a revolutionary socialist people’s movement in Chicago and throughout the country comprised of a multi-cultural working class base.
“We got to face some facts. That the masses are poor, that the masses belong to what you call the lower class, and when I talk about the masses, I’m talking about the white masses, I’m talking about the black masses, and the brown masses, and the yellow masses, too. We’ve got to face the fact that some people say you fight fire best with fire, but we say you put a fire out best with water. We say you don’t fight racism with racism. We’re gonna fight racism with solidarity. We say you don’t fight capitalism with no black capitalism; you fight capitalism with socialism.”
Fred Hampton quickly rose to prominence and became the youngest chairman of the Black Panther Party in Chicago, IL. He taught political education classes to people in the community, worked closely with the people’s free health clinic, and grew the BPP free breakfast program for needy youth in Chicago. The Panther’s rise to the national spotlight and political infamy made members of the national party became targets of the FBI’s covert COINTELPRO program. Fred Hampton’s youth, swagger, and impeccable ability to connect with people across racial and class lines made him a public enemy number to Chicago Police and FBI. He was assassinated on December 4, 1969, in Chicago at the age of twenty-one years old.
“Yes, we do defend our office as we do defend our homes. This is a constitutional right everybody has, and nothing’s funny about that. The only reason they get mad at the Black Panther Party when you do it is for the simple reason that we’re political.”
His legacy still stands today for building solidarity movements that connected people across diverse backgrounds in truth and justice. The book The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther documented his murder and the fallout from said events. The documentaries Death of a Black Panther: The Fred Hampton Story and The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution both highlighted the life and death of Fred Hampton and his impact on Black Power movement. His passion, intelligence, and natural ability to connect with others made Fred Hampton a truly revolutionary figure. Today, we honor Fred Hampton as our Evolved Man of the Week.