Created By: Cru Chicago
In December of 1969, 21-year-old leader of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, Fred Hampton, was shot by a raid conducted jointly by the Chicago Police Department and the FBI. Hampton was raised in suburban Maywood and attended Proviso East High School and Triton Junior College. He was active in the NAACP Youth Council before being attracted to the direct approach of the Black Panther Party (BPP).
“Hampton's organizing skills, substantial oratorical gifts, and personal charisma allowed him to rise quickly in the Black Panthers. Once he became the leader of the Chicago chapter, he organized weekly rallies, worked closely with the BPP's local People's Clinic, taught political education classes every morning at 6 am, and launched a project for community supervision of the police. Hampton was also instrumental in the BPP's Free Breakfast Program.”
“While Hampton impressed many of the people with whom he came into contact as an effective leader and talented communicator, those very qualities marked him as a major threat in the eyes of the FBI. Hence, the bureau began keeping close tabs on his activities. Subsequent investigations have shown that FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover was determined to prevent the formation of a cohesive Black movement in the United States. Hoover saw the Panthers, Young Patriots, Young Lords, and similar radical coalitions forged by Hampton in Chicago as a frightening steppingstone toward the creation of such a revolutionary body that could, in its strength, cause a radical change in the U.S. government.”
The FBI hired an accused car thief named William O’Neal to infiltrate the BPP organization and give information leading to the raid in which Hampton was killed. O’Neal went so far as to drug Hampton so that he slept throughout the raid. While the police described the raid as a “shoot-out”, the BPPs countered that it was a “shoot-in” because only 1 of the 90-100 bullets fired came from a non-police gun.
The WGN Story contains interviews with Hampton's family surrounding the making of the movie Jesus and the Black Messiah.
From the website Atlas Obscura:
"A FAMILY AQUATIC PARK MIGHT seem like an odd way to honor a leader of the Black Panther Party who was shot and killed by Chicago police in 1969. But an unrestricted public pool for youth was part of Fred Hampton’s dream of improving the living conditions in his hometown of Maywood, Illinois.
Though the city of Chicago has been reluctant to celebrate the life of Fred Hampton, his hometown of Maywood has honored the activist by naming a street and pool after him. The pool in particular was important to Hampton’s legacy. Just after graduating from Proviso East High School with honors, Hampton was still working with the NAACP. He organized youth trips to a pool in Brookfield, Illinois, about five miles away, that allowed Black people to swim. The closest public pool in Melrose Park was Whites only.
This motivated Hampton to campaign for a pool that was unrestricted for the youth of Maywood. He organized rallies and had confrontations with the authorities. (Some scholars think these interactions influenced him to take a more revolutionary path and later join the Black Panther Party.) He eventually secured the funds from local businesses to have the pool built. The pool was not intended to be named after him but when he was assassinated prior to the pool’s completion the village board approved naming it in his honor.
A bust of Fred Hampton by sculptor Preston Jackson was dedicated in 2006. The statue sits near the pathway that leads to the pool. It’s inscribed with this quote from the young civil rights fighter: 'If I leave, I’ll be back. And when I do come back, I’ll be back to stay and join the revolution."
1. Black Panther Party. Accessed April 23, 2018. http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/142.html.
2. "Fred Hampton." Wikipedia. April 26, 2018. Accessed April 29, 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Hampton.
3. WGN Story about the making of Jesus and the Black Messiah. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1zfbIYyhfI
4. Fred Hampton Pool. Accessed May 10, 2023.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Legacies: Three Trailblazers