This year marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton Sr., and his presence still looms large on Chicago’s West Side, where authorities shot and killed him in his sleep.
A giant mural of Hampton is emblazoned on the side of the three-story building at 2746 W. Madison St., where U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, D-Illinois, once had his district office.
Hampton’s face looms down, along with the words “Chairman Fred.” The mural was completed about a decade ago, according to his son Fred Hampton Jr., who said the project was intended “to help bring attention to the work that he did.”
While the Black Panther Party had a militant, Marxist edge and drew the attention of the FBI and other law enforcement agencies during the Civil Rights Era, Hampton worked to foster peace among rival gangs and to provide free breakfast for the poor, among other anti-poverty and social justice efforts.
The mural stands less than a mile from where Hampton was killed on Dec. 4, 1969, by officers with the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, the Chicago police and the FBI who shot him while he was in bed — drugged by an informant — in a raid that further inflamed racial tensions and reinforced the narrative of police brutality and racism in the city. Mark Clark, another Black Panther Party leader, also was killed.
Though a coroner’s jury ruled their deaths were justifiable homicide, survivors sued, and the city, the county and the federal government eventually settled for $1.85 million.
Another mural showing Hampton’s face, with red tears, formerly stood on a building at Madison Street and Hoyne Avenue.