Fred Hampton: Fact vs. Fiction

Cover Story

CHICAGO — With Hollywood’s Super Bowl on Sunday night, “Judas and the Black Messiah” is up for Oscars in five categories.

The film centers around Illinois Black Panther leader Fred Hampton and the FBI informant who betrayed him. The two actors who play the characters are both up for Best Supporting Actor.

Actor Daniel Kaluuya has won widespread praise for his portrayal of Hampton, the chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party. The film has unearthed some deeply buried memories, which are still relevant today.  

“I still today have not watched the movie from beginning to end. It’s emotional for me to see it all the way through,” said Akua Njeri, Hampton’s fiancé, then known as Deborah Johnson. “I have flashbacks of what happened. That’s something I’ll never forget or outlive.”  

On Dec. 4, 1969, Njeri was pregnant, sleeping next to the 21-year-old Hampton. Just before 5 a.m., Chicago police raided the West Side apartment with a hail of bullets. Hampton was shot twice in the head after an officer found him wounded in bed. Mark Clark was also killed and several others were injured.  

Weeks after the raid, Fred Hampton Jr. was born.  

“I didn’t have the fortune to physically meet him, however as I said in a poem, I learned lessons from his legend on how a man should be,” Hampton Jr., now chairman of the Black Panther Party Cubs, said.  

Njeri and Hampton Jr. both served as consultants and cultural experts on the film. They hosted meetings with the cast, director Shaka King and producer Ryan Coogler in the Maywood home where Hampton grew up.  

In this WGN News Cover Story, Gaynor Hall dives into the family’s involvement and their thoughts on the film, and speaks with a historian to separate the fact from the fiction.   

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