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UPDATED: Dec. 4, 2023, 6:30 p.m.
Fred Hampton, the leader of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers who was assassinated in a home by Chicago police 54 years ago on Monday, was the living personification of the word “revolutionary” by any standard. He was only 21 years old when he was killed on Dec. 4, 1969, but his political, social and revolutionary legacy has stood the test of time for more than double the time he was alive, and counting.
Keep reading to find some of Fred Hampton’s most political and revolutionary quotes.
Despite his youth — or perhaps because of it — Hampton became one of the most respected and charismatic leaders of the original Black Panther Party who shook up the American political structure with his views that were described as radical at the time. His political views arguably ultimately paved the road for some of the country’s current crop of elected officials who are now seen as moderate.
However, at the time in the late 1960s, those views that advocated for the advancement and unity of Black and brown people in opposition to the police state in which many of them lived prompted law enforcement to plot his death. The FBI began keeping tabs on Hampton up until the fateful night he and Mark Clark, a 22-year-old Black Panther leader, were killed during a police raid in Peoria, Illinois.
Their assassinations were facilitated by a fellow member of the Black Panther Party who became an informant. At the time, William O’Neal was third in command of the Chicago chapter of the Black Panthers who told then-Cook County State’s Attorney Edward Hanrahan where Hampton would be on the night of Dec. 4, 1969.
His memory has not faded, though, and Hampton is still very much an endeared figure, especially in Black Chicago. It is there on the city’s west side where Hampton’s likeness is memorialized on a mural that includes one of the gifted speaker’s famous quotes: “I Am A Revolutionary — Free Em All.”
There’s also a major motion picture biopic called “Judas and the Black Messiah” starring Lakeith Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya and produced by Ryan Coogler, who directed the blockbuster international hit film, “Black Panther.”
Some of Hampton’s other accomplishments in life include organizing a student chapter of the NAACP in Maywood, Illinois. Hampton also brought together poor Black, white and Puerto Rican people as part of the “Rainbow Coalition” and inspired peace among several warring gangs.
To get a better idea of what the man was all about, don’t take our word for it — read the man’s words for yourself as we’ve compiled 10 of Fred Hampton’s most politically revolutionary quotes, courtesy of the Everyday Power website.
“You can jail a revolutionary, but you can’t jail the revolution.”
Pictured: Fred Hampton speaks at a Black Panthers rally in Chicago’s Grant Park in September 1969.
“We ain’t gonna fight no reactionary pigs who run up and down the street being reactionary; we’re gonna organize and dedicate ourselves to revolutionary political power and teach ourselves the specific needs of resisting the power structure, arm ourselves, and we’re gonna fight reactionary pigs with international proletarian revolution.”
“If you ever think about me, and you ain’t gonna do no revolutionary act, forget about me. I don’t want myself on your mind if you’re not going to work for the people.”
Pictured: A view of protestors gathered for an ‘Avenge Fred Hampton’ rally, held at Boston Common, 1970.
“A lot of people get the word revolution mixed up and they think revolution’s a bad word. Revolution is nothing but like having a sore on your body and then you put something on that sore to cure that infection.”
Pictured: Fred Hampton raises his arms at the ‘Days of Rage’ rally, Chicago, Illinois, on Oct. 11, 1969.
“The Black Panther Party stood up and said that we don’t care what anybody says. We don’t think fighting fire with fire is best; we think you fight fire with water best.”
Pictured: Illinois Black Panther leader Bobby Rush, (2nd from left), leads a group from a Criminal Courts building during lunch recess in coroner’s jury hearing into the killings of Fred Hampton Mark Clark.
“We understood that politics is nothing but war without bloodshed and war is nothing but politics with bloodshed.”
Pictured: Fred Hampton, left, and Dr. Benjamin Spock, right, attend a rally against the trial of eight people accused of conspiracy to start a riot at the Democratic National Convention. The rally was held outside the Federal Building in Chicago on Oct. 29, 1969.
“We don’t need no culture except revolutionary culture. What we mean by that is a culture that will free you.”
Pictured: Fred Hampton, left, speaks during a press conference with the Young Lords, a Puerto Rican civil and human rights group, on Oct. 10, 1969, at Holy Covenant United Methodist Church in Chicago.
“Yes, we do defend our office as we do defend our homes. This is a constitutional right everybody has, and nothing’s funny about that. The only reason they get mad at the Black Panther Party when you do it is for the simple reason that we’re political.”
“We know that political power doesn’t flow from the sleeve of a dashiki. We know that political power flows from the barrel of a gun.” Pictured: A demonstrator wears a facemask with a patch reading Fred Hampton Gun Club during a protest against police brutality and racism at Lafayette Square near the White House in Washington, D.C., on June 7, 2020.
“We might not be back. I might be in jail. I might be anywhere. But when I leave, you’ll remember I said, with the last words on my lips, that I am a revolutionary. And you’re going to have to keep on saying that. You’re going to have to say that I am a proletariat; I am the people.”
Pictured: Mourners pass by the coffin of Fred Hampton at his memorial service at First Baptist Church of Melrose Park, Melrose Park, Illinois, on Dec. 9, 1969.
“We say that we will work with anybody and form a coalition with anybody that has revolution on their mind.”
Pictured: View of protestors, many with signs or banners, at an anti-Nixon demonstration outside the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, New York, New York, December 9, 1969. Several banners read ‘Avenge Fred Hampton,’ a reference to the Black Panther member assassinated, five days earlier, by members of the Chicago Police Force.
“You can’t build a revolution with no education. Jomo Kenyatta did this in Africa, and because the people were not educated, he became as much an oppressor as the people he overthrew.”
Pictured: A sign renaming Glassford Street as Fred Hampton Street, the American activist and revolutionary socialist, is displayed in the Merchant City area of Glasgow, Scotland on June 6, 2020. – Activists in Glasgow on June 6, created new street names representing civil rights activists and victims of police brutality and placed them alongside the existing street names in the Merchant City area.
“Everything would be alright if everything was put back in the hands of the people, and we’re going to have to put it back in the hands of the people.”
Pictured: Activist Fred Hampton Jr., son of late Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton, talks to local activists at George Floyd Square on April 5, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. –
“We say primarily that the priority of this struggle is class. That Marx and Lenin and Che Guevara and Mao Tse-Tung, and anybody else who ever said or knew or practiced anything about revolution, always said that a revolution is a class struggle.”
Pictured: Activist Fred Hampton Jr. (2nd L), son of late Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton, and other activists raise their fists as they visit George Floyd Square on April 5, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
15. Dr. Huey P. Newton Way Dedication
“I am the people, I’m not the pig. You got to make a distinction. And the people are going to have to attack the pigs. The people are going to have to stand up against the pigs. That’s what the Panthers is doing, that’s what the Panthers are doing all over the world.”
Pictured: Chairman Fred Hampton Jr. son of former Black Panther Party member Fred Hampton, who was shot and killed by police in Chicago in 1969, speaks during the dedication of a section of 9th Street as “u201cDr. Huey P. Newton Way”u201d in West Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, February 17, 2021. Newton, cofounder of the party, was shot and killed on the street in 1989.