Advance Praise For The Assassination of Fred Hampton
“[A] political cliff-hanger . . . The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police murdered a Black Panther is an exposé [that] should be read in schools across the country.” —Huffington Post
“The execution of Fred Hampton was the gravest domestic crime of the Nixon administration. In twelve years of dedicated engagement, a few young lawyers of the People’s Law Office were able to overcome disgraceful judicial barriers and government obfuscation and deceit, to establish what actually happened, and to reveal that the assassination was part of a vast program of state repression aimed at undermining dissent generally, and in particular to “prevent the rise of a messiah who could unify and electrify > the black masses”–the infamous words of the head of the national political police, J. Edgar Hoover, who cast his dark shadow over half a century of American life. They were finally vindicated in a decision by Appeals Judge Luther Swygert that they rightly say “is among the most famous civil rights decisions ever rendered.” This personal memoir by one of the courageous lawyers who achieved this bitter and remarkable victory gives a riveting account of the assassination, the plot behind it, the attempted coverup, the denouement, and the lessons that we should draw from this shocking tale of government iniquity.”
—Noam Chomsky, author and political activist
“This book of the assassination of a sleeping Fred Hampton by Chicago police working for a mad state’s attorney is more important NOW than it was THEN. It is a revelation of how the powerful of our city use power—to keep truth distant. The hard truth is that this is a remarkable work.”
“People should not forget that State’s Attorney Hanrahan, the Chicago police and the FBI murdered my son. This book tells the story, not only of Fred’s death, but also of his life. At 21, Fred was already a great leader. Who knows what he may have become, if they hadn’t killed him?”
—Iberia Hampton, Fred Hampton’s mother
“The murder in 1969 of Black Panther chairman Fred Hampton by local and federal law enforcement was a straight-up government assassination—and anyone even remotely close to the situation knew it—but in the turmoil and turbulence of the times, few thought that there could ever be an official acknowledgment of that fact. Jeff Haas, Hampton’s attorney, friend, and contemporary, immediately set out with his intrepid colleagues from the People’s Law Office on a journey to uncover the truth and win some measure of justice. Haas offers here the first full, historically accurate account of that murder and its aftermath.
Part history, part courtroom drama, part literary memoir, Haas evokes with chilling precision a bloody and desperate repressive state apparatus locked in conflict with its greatest fear, a charismatic young black man with revolution on his mind. We see courage and cowardice, dignity and betrayal, hope and despair, devastation and rebirth.
With this essential book, Jeff Haas has added a missing chapter in the long and complex history of the Black Freedom Movement, and has simultaneously lived up to a blood obligation from 40 years ago.”
— William Ayers, professor of education, University of Illinois at Chicago, former SDS leader, and author
“A true crime story and legal thriller, this powerful account puts together all the pieces, step by step, giving us the anatomy of a despicable episode in recent American history. The writing is clear and straightforward; the overall impact devastating.”
— Phillip Lopate, author of Getting Personal
“Jeff Haas is a third generation civil rights/human rights hero. He grew up in the shame and brutality of southern racial segregation entering his teens during the early years, both fearful and hopeful, of the Civil Rights Movement in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Atlanta, Georgia. As a young lawyer he experienced the electrifying racism, deadly urban race riots, and the police riots and repression during the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968 that elected Richard Nixon.
In 1969 our United States veered close to becoming a police state with planned and coordinated attacks against “black militants” by local law enforcement and federal agencies. Among other actions, Chicago police killed John Soto for organizing demonstrations to get a traffic light where two black children had been killed crossing the street in their black neighborhood. Five days later the police killed John’s older brother, Sgt. Michael Soto, 20, who was home on leave from Vietnam.
The Black Panther Party was targeted and members killed by police from Oakland, California to New Haven, Connecticut. The most extreme police action, supported by the FBI, was a carefully planned attack on a Black Panther apartment in Chicago with murder aforethought. Fred Hampton, the Panthers 21 year old Illinois Chairman, sedated in advance, asleep in bed with his 8 month pregnant love was shot in the head twice at point blank range. Another Panther, 18, from Peoria was killed and others seriously wounded including the young woman by Hampton’s side. The walls of the apartment looked like a sieve from bullet holes resulting from police gunfire. The States Attorney, his police and federal support were prepared to celebrate, but sometimes it doesn’t always work. It was the time of a Mayor Daley and a President Nixon.
A small and valiant few, Panthers, black leaders, lawyers, activists and others, including our author throughout, resisted. The six survivors in the Panther apartment were indicted, but acquitted. The States Attorney was indicted later, never acquitted but ultimately held immune from prosecution – at the expense of his career and a huge part of public confidence in local and federal law enforcement.
There followed a valiant and grueling 13 year struggle to hold government agents liable in civil damages for criminal acts and finally an award for two deaths and multiple injuries that was less than $2 million dollars. Accidental deaths in the U.S. caused by negligence commonly receive court awards ten times greater. Relatives of U.S. citizens killed by “terrorist” acts are regularly awarded $100,000,000 to $250,000,000 in damages under U.S. anti-terrorism statutes. But only the most tenacious effort to secure legal justice for racist killings by police in our country receive any compensation. Courage, sacrifice and perseverance made the murder of Fred Hampton, death of Mark Clark and wounding of other occupants an historic exception.
This is an extremely important book—and a tale well told—for America to read if it wants to become what it says it has always been—the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
—Ramsey Clark, lawyer and former United States Attorney General
“I welcome the publication of this new portrayal of the FBI’s COINTELPRO operation in Chicago against the Black Panther Party. Jeff Haas, at the time an activist attorney with the People’s Law Office, gives a chilling account that I think is essential reading for understanding the pre-dawn executions of Panther leaders Mark Clark and Fred Hampton in December 1969. Their deaths marked a turning point, one that still sears the conscience of a generation.
Urban and rural warfare, popular uprisings, and police shootings were omnipresent during this era of Black Power, this era of Vietnam, this era of Richard Nixon. Reading Haas discuss his interactions with the Panthers, evoked the scattered feelings of those stressful days, in particular the encounters with the bereaved families, and at times it brought tears to my eyes. The exceptionally protracted confrontation with the federal and state governments to expose their deadly collusion is the central battle of this book.
Haas describes the agonizing, tragic, and sometimes even humorous details of the court room dramas he and other lawyers endured which were necessary to reveal the collaboration between FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, Illinois’ States Attorney Edward Hanrahan, selected Chicago police officers, and the courts that tried to hide their involvement in the calculated murders of Black Panthers. This book should be read, talked about, and broadcast far and wide, not only to help grasp the government sanctioned tactics of forty years ago, but for its ongoing relevance to seeing what ways ideology has corrupted American political institutions–and what we can do about it.”
— Kathleen Cleaver, Senior Lecturer at Emory University School of Law and former Communications Secretary of the Black Panther Party
“At once journalist, lawyer and storyteller, Jeff Haas manages to sear into every page of this book a compassion seemingly forgotten, while dramatically documenting how agents and agencies of the United States government conspired to and did murder Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark. . . . Haas provides an eyewitness account that is riveting, while teaching an important lesson about the role each of us can play on the battlefield for justice and passing the baton to a new generation. This book should be studied by every student of the law and mandatory reading for those who love and believe in freedom.”
— Elaine Brown, activist, author, and former leader of the Black Panther Party
“This is a story, honestly and dramatically told, of how an FBI/Chicago police conspiracy that took the lives of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark resulted in a 13-year legal struggle by three young lawyers who risked their professional standing and livelihood to expose the truth.”
— Len Weinglass, lawyer and civil rights activist
“The Assassination of Fred Hampton by Jeffrey Haas is a welcome addition to the burgeoning historiography of the turbulent sixties. Heretofore, the vital role of radical and sympathetic lawyers in combating the onslaught of government repression against members of the Black Panther Party and other movement activists during this period has largely been overlooked. Haas provides an insightful, detailed, and fascinating account of the legal strategies, motions, depositions, briefs, and courtroom battles undertaken by lawyers of the People’s Law Office and a network of legal advocates. It is not an exaggeration to claim that without the perseverance and sacrifice of Jeffrey Haas and his colleagues the complicity between the FBI and the Chicago Police Department in the death of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark would have remained locked in the vaults of the two respective law enforcement agencies. We all owe these gallant lawyers a salute of gratitude and appreciation for their commitment to the freedom and equality of oppressed people.”
— Charles E. Jones Editor of The Black Panther Party Reconsidered and Chair of the Department of African-American Studies at Georgia State University.