Newly Obtained FBI Files Shed New Light on the Murder of Fred HamptonBreaking News
tags: FBI, assassinations, radicalism, COINTELPRO, Black Panther Party, Fred Hampton
Aaron J. Leonard is a writer and historian. He is the author of A Threat of the First Magnitude: FBI Counterintelligence & Infiltration From the Communist Party to the Revolutionary Union - 1962-1974 (Repeater Books, 2018).
In the predawn hours of December 4, 1969, fourteen Chicago Police officers, claiming they were searching for illegal weapons, crashed into a first floor apartment on Chicago’s Monroe Street and opened fire. Inside were nine members of the Illinois Black Panther Party, including the rising star of the chapter, Fred Hampton.
The police claimed the apartment’s occupants fired on them, but after a fusillade of more than ninety bullets, the only people shot were Panthers, including Mark Clark and Hampton, who were dead. The picture of grinning cops carrying Hampton’s body out of the apartment that circulated in the wake of the killing said it all: the Chicago Police Department (CPD) had wanted Hampton dead. Their mission was accomplished.
The Chicago police, however, were not the only ones celebrating. We now know that within days of the murderous operation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) awarded their Special Agent Roy Martin Mitchell, the handler of the informant who was key to the raid, a $200 bonus for work well done. This, and other information is contained in documents obtained by Aaron Leonard — posted here for the first time — via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
The murder of Fred Hampton remains a point of tremendous outrage and debate decades after the fact — most recently thrust into the spotlight with the release of the film Judas and the Black Messiah. Too often there is an assumption that all facts are known. But with these new documents and others released in the past few years, it is clear there is more to uncover — not only for the sake of historical accuracy, but to understand how the bureau targeted those who were deemed threats to the status quo, so we can try to ensure such voices will not be silenced in the future.
COINTELPRO: “Black Nationalist Hate Groups”
When speaking of Fred Hampton the term COINTELPRO, the syllabic abbreviation for counterintelligence program, has become near-synonymous with his killing. So it is worth looking at what the COINTELPRO aimed at the Black Panther Party (BPP) actually was.