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The Murder of Fred Hampton (1971)

Not Rated  |   |  Documentary, Biography, Crime  |  May 1971 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 137 users  
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Fred Hampton was the leader of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party. This film depicts his brutal murder by the Chicago police and its subsequent investigation, but also ... See full summary »


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Credited cast:
Rennie Davis ...
Himself (archive footage)
Fred Hampton ...
Himself (archive footage)
Edward Hanrahan ...
Himself (Illinois State's Attorney) (archive footage)
Don Matuson ...
Attorney in trial re-creation
Bobby Rush ...
Himself (archive footage)


Fred Hampton was the leader of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party. This film depicts his brutal murder by the Chicago police and its subsequent investigation, but also documents his activities in organizing the Chapter, his public speeches, and the programs he founded for children during the last eighteen months of his life. Written by Harvard Film Archive / submitted by Max Schaefer <>

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May 1971 (USA)  »

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Hampton  »

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User Reviews

The Great Oil Spill of Chicago
2 June 2010 | by (Virginia Beach) – See all my reviews

If you lived through the 60s, or if you are a student of political movements and truth, you will find this fascinating.

The facts are simple enough: The US had an overtly racist political system, working differently in big northern cities than backwards southern towns. Although the major sweep of protest was a noble, steady stand for simple justice, some hotheads took a violent stand. One of these was the Black Panthers, and a stronghold was Chicago.

Chicago was famously corrupt in the sense of an inbred political establishment, including the police. Loyalty to the establishment was the game and the truth was expendable, malleable, inventable. Well, that is an old story.

The interesting element is the Panthers. We have this film as consisting of footage from before and after the murder. The Panthers are possibly honest but probably not so. They surely are passionate, and committed to "the people." The striking thing is how utterly stupid the politics is: a combination of plain unrealistic Marxism, uneducated rhetoric and logic and earnest but goofy metaphors. These guys are basically well-meaning, frustrated nitwits with guns, who had a genuinely honest complaint and a lucked into an adversary that was incompetent at lying.

The second half of this film was produced by the Panthers (and their white lawyers) as detectivework to show the lies of the Chicago police. There is no controversy about what happened and it is instructive to compare it to today's obsession with terrorists.

There is a frustrated people who take up an armed struggle. They mix their aggressiveness with service programs for an underserved society on whom they depend for support. In this case, it was breakfast and "education" programs. This is the model for Al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah. A large establishment opposes them, fears about safety abound. There is a threat of overthrow, destruction. Each side vilifies the other. But one side has governmental stability and organized forces. So they do what they believe is necessary, constitution be damned.

No one listening to the news actually believed the police story, neither white nor black. Whites fabulated a story to explain away the discrepancies from the truth. This differs from today where torture is openly supported rather than lied about. But otherwise this film does what the best of history can do: give us insight into ourselves.

Yes, the filmmakers, presenters and detectives are not admirable. Yes, you would not want to sign up for their childish politics. Unless you are grasping for a manufactured ethnic identity, the language and means of expression grate, embarrass. But they were fighting a great lie, a great lie in front of a great injustice.

And the footage is real. So this matters.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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