Where is Fred Hampton Jr now? Real story of Fred Hampton and Deborah Johnson's son once sentenced to 18 years jail
Working behind and beyond prison walls, Hampton Jr works to organize the black community, and expose brutal prison conditions, a bio reads
On the unfateful night of December 4, 1969, at around 4.30 am, Fred Hampton was shot dead in his bed during a secret raid at his Chicago apartment Cook County State's Attorney's Office in alignment with the Chicago Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The tragic story resonates with the current Black Lives Matter movement and fills hearts with sorrow. Directed and produced by Shaka King, the film ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ repaints history to chronicle the life of the revolutionary socialist who rose to prominence as chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party (BPP).
Not only Hampton's activism, but the movie also sheds light on his love story with Deborah Johnson too — who was nine months pregnant with their son at the time of the raid. Although she later changed her name to Akua Njeri, what happened to their child? Here's the real story behind his life.
Who is Fred Hampton Jr?
Born on December 29, 1969 — barely 25 days after his father Fred Hampton's death, Hampton Jr carried the legacy of the prominent Black activist. At the time of his birth, he was named Alfred Johnson but his mother had it legally changed to “Fred Hampton Jr” when he was 10 years old.
Even without having seen his father, the resemblance is uncanny. Sketching out how the two mirror each other, Chicago Reader.com highlighted their “deep, burning eyes, the engaging grin and the resonant baritone” during a Stateville penitentiary visit. Saying “Uhuru” — a Swahili word meaning freedom — he settled into a seat at a table beside his mother, Akua Njeri (nee Deborah Johnson) and said, “They're probably listening to every word we're saying. You know I've been a target since birth.”
Growing up on the south side
Hampton graduated from Tilden High School and then went on to study journalism at Olive–Harvey College. Learning all about the Black-power movement, he grew up on the south side during the 70s and took a part-time job as an auto mechanic or whiled away hawking copies of the African Socialist Party's newspaper, the Burning Spear. During the late 1980s, he was a well-known speaker at the National People's Democratic Uhuru Movement (NPDUM). Talking about his childhood, Njeri was quick to reveal, “Even when he was a little guy, he was interested in the movement.”
She added, “A lot of times people in grammar school would say that the Black Panthers were a bunch of gangbangers and thugs who wanted to kill white people, and he would go out and find books and stuff that I hadn't even seen to prove them wrong. He would bring them home and we would sit down and read them, and I would always talk to him about his father really to combat all this other stuff, all the negative information that was used to slander the Black Panthers. He was always seeking information.”
Why was he arrested?
Being born a Hampton has transposed into a life of struggle. “I am clear that I have been targeted,” Hampton asserts. “I am a victim of continued counterinsurgency. A lot of people think counterinsurgency was solved in 1972. I was targeted since I was born. Still, in the eyes of the state, being the son of Fred Hampton is a crime.”
In 1993, he was taken behind the bars after firebombing a Korean grocery store. The controversy sparked in the aftermath of the 1992 nationwide protests after the acquittal of the Los Angeles Police Department officers who beat Rodney King. Even though Hampton claimed he was home all day, authorities reported that he was seen throwing Molotov cocktails into Korean businesses, Lee's Men's Fashions and MJM Jewelry.
That year, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison for the “act of terrorism” getting parole only on September 14, 2001. Defending him, mother Akua called it a “bogus charge” and said, “Where was the fire? Who was injured? Nobody. And even if he did it, 18 years? 18 years? We maintain Fred didn't do it.”
Where is he now?
Back in 2006, Hampton Jr made an appearance in Michel Gondry's 2006 film ‘Dave Chappelle's Block Party’. His trial became the inspiration for Fall Out Boy's song ‘You're Crashing, But You're No Wave’. Interestingly, songs like ‘Behind Enemy Lines’ by Dead Prez and ‘Clap for the Killers’ by Street Sweeper Social Club were also based on him and his father's life.
Now, he serves as the president and chairman of the Prisoners of Conscience Committee and the Black Panther Party Cubs (POCC/BPPC). A spoken word artist and poet, he organizes events highlighting race relations and law enforcement. Working behind and beyond prison walls, Hampton Jr works to organize the black community, and expose brutal prison conditions, a bio reads.
Was he involved in the making of ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’?
It may come as a surprise to you but Hampton Jr has been associated with his father's biopic as a consultant for years now. Director Shaka King met him several times before production and even visited his childhood home in Maywood. In fact, their intense conversation about the script and story once lasted between 10 and 12 hours.
“He is his father’s son,” King said in an interview with Chicago Suntimes. “Fred Jr’s time on set with us was incredibly useful. We re-did scenes, and he pointed out minor details. We’re doing a movie about these people’s lives; we had to get it right.”
Did you know Hampton Jr even met actors Daniel Kaluuya and Dominique Fishback? “We met in ‘K-Town’ at Madison [Street] and Keeler [Avenue]; we met right there,” he said. “That’s our office — the streets — and our relationship has been ongoing.”
The movie ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ will release in theaters and on HBO Max on Friday, February 12, 2021. It drops at 12 am PT or 3 am ET and is available for streaming on HBO Max for 31 days. The subscription costs $14.99 a month.