Storytelling, Fred Hampton, and the OG SDS

I just finished reading a fairly long book called The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther by Jeffrey Haas. I received this book as a present and remembered hearing a good review on how this book illuminates the historical context behind the FBI’s role in the political assassination of Hampton. Beyond this complex and detailed history though I also impacted by the role of storytelling in this text. 

What Haas cited and brought up himself so many times throughout the novel was Hampton’s power in communication, in how through his words he was able to communicate to all groups of people the Black Panther Party’s message. Multiple times in times of systemic discouragement, we see Hampton’s successors rise because of his legacy of the will to push forward. Haas offers a unique perspective. As a nonblack, Jewish identifying young man, his experience was already extremely different than the late young revolutionary. Yet I found the perspective of one of the lawyers that fought for Hampton to be incandescently large. So often when we hear stories about fighters like Fred Hampton we are forced to confront how deep and systemic the embedded powers are that viciously murdered him. Hampton’s death isn’t the case of one wild individual’s moment of rage, although you could argue that most moments of cataclysm are akin to broader things too. Hampton’s story is perhaps the clearest example of a system of power that made the choice to murder an individual. And although Hampton is famous for his line:


Undeniably, the influence behind his death was multifaceted and deeply embedded in the power structures that rule this country. Hampton’s assassination story becomes innumerable by Haas’s political, legal, and systematic knowledge of the rule of law’s clutches on our capitalist, governing institutions. Beyond the moral atrocities, Haas displays the role Hampton can show us in understanding the Untied State’s constitutional laws, government, prison industrial complexes, policing institutions, and Jim Crow/slavery legacies. This then makes the reader not only think about the moral tragedy behind the assassination of one of our best revolutionaries and young man but behind the power structures which enabled it. This is why Haas’s storytelling is so poignant. 

Lastly, the acronym SDS came up in a couple of Haas’s more specific details of his account and I was inspired to learn about my predecessor. So this post today is in honor of the OG SDS: Students for a Democratic Society which on their 1960’s archived website states that they:

“[were] the largest and most influential US radical student organization of the 1960s. At its inception in 1960, there were just a few dozen members, inspired by the civil rights movement and initially concerned with equality, economic justice, peace, and participatory democracy. With the escalation of the Vietnam War, SDS grew rapidly as young people protested the destruction wrought by the US government and military. Polite protest turned into stronger and more determined resistance as rage and frustration increased all across the country” Click here to check out the archived site. 

That’s all for today folks. Power to the people.

Published by ellakotsen

student at Bryn Mawr College

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