For many Americans, the 1960s began with tremendous promise as Senator John F. Kennedy (D-MA) was elected to serve as the thirty-fifth president of the United States. Those Americans, especially among America's youth, viewed Kennedy's triumph as a symbol of hope for a better future. Sadly, the decade ended as tragically as it euphorically began. In the summer of 1963, Medgar Evers, a leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), was gunned down in front of his home in Jackson, Mississippi. Five months later, President Kennedy's life was cut short by a sniper's bullet in Dallas, Texas. In 1965, Malcolm X, a Muslim religious leader and black nationalist, was killed following a dispute over the leadership and direction of the Nation of Islam. Then, in the spring of 1968, the assassinations of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Democratic presidential hopeful Robert E Kennedy contributed to the demise of domestic liberalism by the end of that turbulent decade.
The violence that shattered America's hope for a better future in the 1960s included instances of police brutality against leaders of the Black Panther Party (BPP). (1) On December 4, 1969, members of a special unit of the Cook County State's Attorney's office staged a pre-dawn raid on a Black Panther residence on Chicago's Westside based on intelligence claiming that "a cache of illegal weapons, including sawed-off shotguns and riot guns stolen from the Chicago police, was stored in the Panther apartment at 2337 West Monroe Street." (2) As law enforcement officials stormed the apartment, Mark Clark, Defense Captain of the Peoria Branch of the BPR and Fred Hampton, Deputy Chairman of the Illinois State Chapter of the BPP, were fatally shot. Photographers for the Chicago Tribune took pictures of police officers removing the bodies of Clark and Hampton from the apartment. Although pictures of police officers carrying out the dead following a violent confrontation are not altogether rare, what is noteworthy about the photograph is the expression worn by one of the officers, who seemed to savor the moment by smiling perversely as he looked squarely into the camera. (3)
Within hours of the incident, rumors and varying accounts of the raid spread like wildfire. In a preemptive move, police officials issued a statement declaring that Clark and Hampton died during a shoot-out that they themselves initiated. Representatives of the BPP countered this claim by describing what occurred that morning as a 'shoot-at' rather
than a shoot-out. Indeed, a ballistics analysis of the nearly one hundred shots fired during the raid proved that only one came from inside the apartment--a single shot fired from Clark's shotgun. BPP officials further noted that one of the officers shot Hampton in the head at point-blank range while he slept, an assertion supported by the coroner's report. (4) In essence, according to the Panthers' version of the incident, Clark and Hampton never stood a chance of coming out of the raid alive.
To support their claims, the Panthers provided tours of the bullet-riddled residence to anyone who expressed an interest to view it. Hundreds braved the wintry conditions over the next several days to get a sense of what occurred at 2337 West Monroe Street on the morning of December 4, 1969. Community residents, reporters, filmmakers, elected officials, clergy, and civic leaders visited the apartment. According to some accounts, what many witnessed sickened them. Richard G. Stern, an English professor at the University of Chicago, vividly recalled:
Me and three other colleagues stood in line with about 100 other people waiting to enter the apartment. When we finally entered, it was clear that something very bad, very ugly had taken place there; the place smelled of death? Charles P. Henry, a professor of African American Studies at the University of California-Berkeley who was then a graduate student at the University of Chicago, remembered anxiously waiting in the cold to view the apartment: "... [it] appeared stark and cold; the mattress on which Hampton and his girlfriend slept was not on a bed frame; the dwelling had been sprayed with bullets. The mattress was soaked with Hampton's blood, it was a gruesome sight." (6) Others who toured the apartment offered similar testimonies.
Although this event has been described as one of more notable examples of police brutality against the BPP, it has not elicited much scholarly attention. This is surprising for a number of reasons, not the least of which because Chicago, Illinois, is a bastion of intellectual energy--home to a number of reputable colleges and universities, including the University of Chicago, DePaul University, Roosevelt University, Loyola University, and the University of Illinois-Chicago. Yet there are only a limited number of books, newspaper articles, films, testimonies, and journal articles devoted to the raid that resulted in the murders of Clark and Hampton, all of which highlight Hampton's death. (7) As a consequence, Mark Clark has been marginalized in America's collective consciousness.
Fortieth-year Commemoration of the Clark and Hampton Murders
In an effort to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the raid that led to the murders of Clark and Hampton, the first author of this study, Judson L. Jerffries, held a community forum to discuss what occurred before, during, and after the raid. The forum included a screening of The Murder of Fred Hampton--a documentary film of the raid. (8) As the organizer and moderator of the event, I had hoped that it would attract people who were of age during the late 1960s who could vividly recall the raid, which it did. I further hoped that some of the attendees would include transplants from Chicago since a population of Columbus, Ohio residents grew up in Chicago, which also occurred. (9)
After viewing the documentary, I facilitated a dialogue among members of the audience. Although the discussion lasted almost ninety minutes, I was amazed that no one asked any questions about Clark; all of the queries focused on Hampton. Several audience members expressed their admiration for Hampton. When pressed to elaborate, one audience member stated that she admired him because "he gave his life for the struggle--he paid the ultimate price." When I reminded her that Clark, too, paid the ultimate price for his activism, she nodded in agreement, but offered no comment. What I witnessed that night is something to which both authors of this study have become accustomed. In discussing the raid, scholars and average citizens with whom I have spoken over the years about this event tend to say, "Fred Hampton and Mark Clark" in that order; Clark's name is always secondary. In fact, Clark's name often goes unmentioned. Written accounts, films, scholarly writings, as well as newspaper and magazine articles about the raid reflect a similar pattern--highlighting Hampton while slighting Clark. This study seeks to determine how the media (i.e., newspapers) has shaped the public's conceptualization and recollection of this event in an effort to explain why Clark's murder has received so little attention.
Although the December 4, 1969, raid on the Chicago Black Panthers and the murders of Clark and Hampton is well known and considered by some as one of the most dastardly acts of repression in late-twentieth-century American history, it is surprising that relatively few academics have studied the incident in either book form or scholarly article. To a large decree, many of the works that have made the raid the subject of inquiry have focused on Hampton and neglected Clark. Of the five books that concentrate on the raid itself, only two are of a scholarly nature. Jeffrey Haas, an attorney for both the Clark and Hampton families, has written an enlightening page-turner titled The Assassination of Fred Hampton (2010), which is part memoir and part Hampton biography. The remainder of the book chronicles the day-to-day hustings of the trials that followed the murders. Clark is given short shrift here. (10) Stem's odd, yet wonderfully imaginative The Books in Fred Hampton's Apartment (1974) found an audience among radicals and college students. The title is a bit misleading, however, as the book covers a variety of topics, including everyday observations; only one brief chapter is devoted to Hampton and the reading material found in his apartment following the raid. (11) The remaining books concerning the raid include a biography, The Essence of Fred Hampton, published in 1995 and co-written by Hampton's brother; Michael Arlen's An American Verdict (1973), which provides a concise account of the events surrounding the tragedy and the trial that ensued; and, Search and Destroy (1973), an investigative report conducted by a commission headed by Roy Wilkins, then executive director of the NAACP, and former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark. The latter two books focus much of their attention on Hampton's murder, pointing to the culpability of the Chicago Police Department, the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in his death. (12) Unfortunately, Jane Rhodes's Framing the Panthers (2007), which investigates press coverage of the BPP, barely discusses the raid and thus fails to set the record straight regarding the significance of Clark's role in the organization and his death. (13)
In addition to these books, to date there is only one scholarly journal article devoted to the subject. Journalism and communication scholars Todd Fraley and Elli Lester-Roushanzamir offer a textual analysis of the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Daily Defender in an effort to determine how the press reported Hampton's murder. Their primary concern is whether that media coverage framed Hampton as a 'deviant thug' or 'community activist.' Their findings, while...