November 28, 2022

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Creative meets living

Maywood Chicago home of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton gets landmark status

The path from petition to landmarking was swift, in large part because “people were universally positive about doing it,” said Tom Kus, longtime chairman of Maywood’s Historic Preservation Commission, which advanced the proposal to the village council.

Landmarking the house is not only “uplifting our story,” Hampton Jr. told Crain’s, but puts an official stamp of approval on efforts to secure funding for renovations or programming.

“This is a great and historic day,” said Rep. Bobby Rush, who succeeded Fred Hampton in leading the Chicago-area Black Panthers after Hampton was slain by federal and Chicago law enforcement personnel in 1969.

Preserving the two-flat for posterity, Rush said in an emailed statement, “will help us preserve Fred Hampton’s extraordinary legacy and a significant portion of the legacy of the Black Panther Party here in Illinois.”

The two-flat joins several other homes where Black historical figures lived or worked that have recently received or are in the process of seeking landmark status.

Among them are the West Woodlawn two-flat where Emmett Till and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, lived before he was murdered in Mississippi; and the North Kenwood home where blues great Muddy Waters lived, rehearsed and housed fellow musicians.

Hampton Jr. has been using the Maywood two-flat, on 17th Street across from the elementary school that his father attended, as a cultural center dedicated to Black empowerment and social welfare activities. The building has been owned by the family since his grandparents, Francis and Iberia Hampton, members of the Great Migration up from the South, bought it in 1958.

Fred Hampton, born in 1948, lived with his parents there from age 10 until he moved to Chicago after graduating from Proviso East High School in 1966. During his childhood years in the two-flat, Hampton protested a whites-only policy at a public swimming pool (which is now named for him) and a whites-only contest for homecoming queen at Proviso.

In 1968, at 20 years old, Hampton joined the Chicago branch of the Black Panther Party. The Panthers, a Black Power organization founded in 1966 in Oakland, Calif., promoted equal access to food and health care, but also gained a reputation tinged with violence because of its embrace of citizens arming themselves for protection against police.

Rising fast as a leader of the movement, Hampton attracted the scrutiny of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Program, which collaborated with Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and Chicago Police Department personnel on raiding Hampton’s apartment, 10 miles east of the Maywood two-flat.

The tactical squad sprayed at least 90 bullets and the Panthers fired a single shot. Fred Hampton and fellow Black Panther Mark Clark died, and others were critically wounded.

In the room with Hampton was Akua Njeri, who at the time was pregnant with his son, Fred Hampton Jr. Mother and son have both been involved in the landmarking effort. Neri told Crain’s last year that preserving the house will help inspire other young activists who learn of Fred Hampton’s anti-racism efforts when he was a child.

The Hampton house is a rare example in Maywood of a “cultural history landmark,” Kus said. Most of the town’s landmarks are houses and churches honored for their architecture, particularly the Prairie style.