In 1969, Black Panther Party deputy chair Fred Hampton was killed, in his sleep, by Chicago law enforcement officers. He was 21 years old.
The next day, white journalist Abe Peck visited Hampton’s home, and wrote a description of the aftermath of the killing.
I (Jed) encountered this material in Countdown 3, a paperback magazine published in 1970. It’s reprinted here with Abe Peck’s permission.
But before I get to Peck’s account, here’s some background. Content warning for appalling police violence against Black people.
According to Wikipedia’s article about Fred Hampton, Hampton became active in the Illinois chapter of the BPP in 1968.
Hampton rose quickly in the Black Panthers, based on his organizing skills, substantial oratorical gifts, and personal charisma. […] he organized weekly rallies, worked closely with the BPP’s local People’s Clinic, taught political education classes every morning at 6am, and launched a project for community supervision of the police. Hampton was also instrumental in the BPP’s Free Breakfast Program.
The FBI started watching Hampton, and they infiltrated the Black Panthers.
In 1969, the FBI Special Agent in Charge (SAC) in San Francisco wrote Hoover that the agent’s investigation had found that, in his city at least, the Panthers were primarily feeding breakfast to children. Hoover responded with a memo implying that the agent’s career prospects depended on his supplying evidence to support Hoover’s view that the BPP was “a violence-prone organization seeking to overthrow the Government by revolutionary means.”
[In December, 1969, the FBI] decided to set up an arms raid on Hampton’s Chicago apartment. Informant William O’Neal provided them with detailed information about Hampton’s apartment, including the layout of furniture and the bed in which Hampton and his girlfriend slept. An augmented, 14-man team of the [Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office’s Special Prosecutions Unit] was organized for a pre-dawn raid; they were armed with a search warrant for illegal weapons.
That night, O’Neal drugged Hampton to keep him from waking up during the raid.
At 4:45 a.m., the [police team] stormed into the apartment. [They killed the Panther security guard, Mark Clark.] Clark’s gun discharged once into the ceiling. This single round was fired when he suffered a reflexive death-convulsion after being shot. This was the only shot fired by the Panthers.
Hampton, drugged by barbiturates, was sleeping on a mattress in the bedroom with his fiancée, Deborah Johnson, who was nine months pregnant with their child. She was forcibly removed from the room by the police officers while Hampton still lay unconscious in bed.
The police shot Hampton multiple times, first wounding him and then killing him, all while he was asleep in his bed.
The [other] Panthers who had been sleeping in the [apartment] were seriously wounded, then beaten and dragged into the street. They were arrested on charges of aggravated assault and the attempted murder of the officers.
The seven Panthers who survived the raid were indicted by a grand jury on charges of attempted murder, armed violence, and various other weapons charges. These charges were subsequently dropped. During the trial, the Chicago Police Department claimed that the Panthers were the first to fire shots. But a later investigation found that the Chicago police fired between ninety and ninety-nine shots, while the only Panthers shot was a bullet that hit the ceiling from Mark Clark’s fallen shotgun.
The rest of this page, below, was transcribed from Countdown 3 in June 2020.
Content warnings for the following:
- Descriptions of police violence.
- Descriptions of blood.
- A white American writing about Black people’s experiences.
- Use of a skin-color term (that’s often derogatory, but isn’t intended that way here) to describe Vietnamese people.
- Repeated use of the word ghetto.
This is the house that blood built
by Abe Peck
Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were slain by Chicago Police on December 4, 1969. Abe Peck visited the scene of this vicious crime the following morning.
It is criminal to teach a man not to defend himself when he is the constant victim of brutal attacks.
This is the house that blood built. It is called 2337 West Monroe Street. It is in Chicago, in what Elvis calls “the ghet—to.”
A pool of blood stains the carpet behind the front door to this house. The blood was part of Mark Clark until the morning of December 4, 1969. Mark Clark was a Black Panther from Peoria, Illinois.
Color him dead.
Overturned furniture fills the front room and hallways of this house. The walls and furniture are air-conditioned police style—ventilated by shotgun, pistol, automatic rifle, and magnum shells.
Color them violated.
There is a third bedroom at the end of the hallway, and the mattress in this room is half brown and half red. The brown part is frayed from use, the red part is fresh and slippery with agony and pain.
This redness was a part of Fred Hampton. Fred Hampton was Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther party. Color him dead, too.
Fred Hampton was twenty-one years old.
Mark Clark was twenty-two.
A block away, the Information Minister and the Defense Minister and several other speakers speak of Chairman Fred and Mark Clark and armed struggle. They speak of why they are tired of writing and lecturing and organizing in the shadow of four hundred years of Babylonian Captivity.
At the house that blood built, words are no longer necessary. The shotgun patterns show where Ron Satchel, Blair Anderson, Verlin Brewer, and Brenda Harris were put up against the wall.
Shocked eyes play “follow the dots” and relay the truth: each was shot only in the lower body, each was shot to cripple him or her for a long time.
Soon we will pay yet another visit. Jews call it “sitting shivah.” Irishmen call it a “wake.” The Vikings launched ships when the time came. Soon we shall go to a place unlike “the ghet—to,” a place where the air is clean and there is space for people to stretch out. We shall go to this place of good-byes, and we shall say our farewells to the 37th and 38th Black Panthers to perish this year. We shall stand over the graves and hear eulogies to those who fought well and not in vain.
We, the long-haired sons and daughters of the middle class, went to the house that blood built and saw the truth that words and rhetoric cannot say. We saw the redness of black men and women and knew it for the redness of the yellow Vietnamese and the white activist whose blood will flow before the beast is slain. We stepped in the redness, and felt rage that the state’s attorney could dare to congratulate his gunmen for killing people in their beds. The redness seeped into our minds as we thought of our own communal homes and our still-living loved ones.
When we left the house that blood built, we knew that we had descended from the mountain to join with those who dwell in the valley. And when we looked into each other’s eyes we knew that the road back had been sealed by the avalanche of what we had seen.
Bring the ghetto home.
—from The Chicago Seed
[[Jed notes: The following diagram shows the layout of Fred Hampton’s apartment, with the locations of blood and bullet holes marked, especially in Hampton’s bedroom. To view a larger version of the image, click the thumbnail.]]