"Chairman Fred Lives": The Life and Legacies of Fred Hampton, Illinois Black Panther Party Chairman

AHA Session 12
Thursday, January 3, 2019: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Water Tower Parlor (Palmer House Hilton, Sixth Floor)
Barbara Ransby, University of Illinois at Chicago
Page May, Assata's Daughters
Toussaint Losier, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Simon Balto, University of Iowa
Michael Klonsky, Hitting Left
Aislinn Pulley, Black Lives Matter Chicago
Jakobi Williams, Indiana University

Session Abstract

In December of 1969, the Chicago Police Department raided the apartment of Fred Hampton, the 21-year-old leader of the Illinois Black Panther Party, and assassinated Hampton in his bed. The raid concluded a year of intensive community organizing in Chicago on the part of the Panthers generally, and especially on the part of Hampton, who braided together chunks of Chicago's left across racial lines into the original "Rainbow Coalition." Hampton's killing is usually framed as an archetype of repressive state violence toward Black Power organizations, and as a loud toll of the death knell of Black Power in Chicago and across the United States. This roundtable, however, reconsiders this interpretation. Bringing together historians of Chicago's radical tradition, colleagues of Hampton's, and community activists of today who explicitly draw lessons from the work of the man affectionately known as "Chairman Fred," this roundtable explores the fuller contours of Hampton's legacy in the years since his death. Roundtable participants will not simply commemorate Hampton in the 50th anniversary year of his killing. They will also reexamine how the radical organizing tradition that Hampton conjured did not collapse with his death, but instead has continued to inform Chicago's grassroots politics and shape the city ever since.

This roundtable is modestly larger than is standard, because of the desire to include young activists alongside Hampton's contemporaries and professional historians. Participants will be limited to five to seven minutes each of prepared remarks, at which point we look forward to engaging the audience's questions, comments, and reflections.

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