Last weekend was the 53rd anniversary of the assassination of Fred Hampton, Chairman of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panthers. On December 4 at 4:30 a.m. the police knocked down his front door and fired more than 90 shots through the walls and the windows. The 21-year-old organizer was killed as he slept next to his pregnant girlfriend. This “cold-blooded assassination” was coordinated through the FBI’s COINTELPRO initiative since the government felt Hampton was a particular threat for organizing poor Blacks, whites, and Puerto Ricans in a revolutionary “rainbow coalition” (History). The Panthers’ free breakfast for children program and community health clinic had broad support, as did their militant self-defense against predatory policing and proud advocacy of revolutionary change. The following quotes by Fred Hampton remain tragically relevant today, with poor communities in Chicago and around the U.S. facing the same deprivations—and other members of the Black liberation movement only now being released from prison (The Grio).
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On Revolution and Racism
“Everything would be all right if everything was put back in the hands of the people, and we’re gonna have to put it back in the hands of the people… We gon’ have to do more than talk. We gon’ have to do more than listen. We gon’ even have to do more than learn. We gon’ have to start practicing, and that’s very hard. We have to start learning, and you learn through practice” (YouTube).
On Class Struggle
“We say that if you dare to struggle, then you dare to win. If you dare not to struggle you don’t deserve to win. We wouldn’t go into the ring with Muhammad Ali and not fight and wonder why we lost, would we? If you don’t fight, then you don’t deserve to win. If you don’t move on these fascists, then you’re crazy. We say it’s no longer a question of violence or non-violence. We say it’s a question of resistance to fascism or non-existence within fascism” (Hampton).
On Solidarity and Power
“Any program that’s brought into our community should be analyzed by the people of that community. It should be analyzed to see that it meets the relevant needs of that community” (Hampton).
On Movements and Revolutions
“You can jail a revolutionary, but you can’t jail the revolution. You can run a freedom fighter around the country but you can’t run freedom fighting around the country. You can murder a liberator, but you can’t murder liberation” (Essence).
“We always say in the Black Panther Party they can do anything they want to to us. We might not be back. I might be in jail. I might be anywhere. But when I leave, you’ll remember I said, with the last words on my lips, that I am a revolutionary” (ThoughtCo).
• Fred Hampton was murdered by the Chicago police and Federal Bureau of Investigation 53 years ago.
• Hampton’s skill in organizing a multiracial coalition as Illinois Chairman of the Black Panther Party made him a threat to the government.
• Exploitation of the same communities and political repression continue today.