November 27, 2013

On Dec. 4, 1969, Fred Hampton, a 21-year-old leader in the Black Panther Party, was killed during a law enforcement raid of a West Side apartment. The controversial events of that morning rocked Chicago’s minority communities and reshaped the political landscape of the city.

Forty-four years later, an exhibition and series of public programs at the University of Chicago will examine the enduring legacy of Fred Hampton and the Panthers. “Black Power!: In Tribute to Fred Hampton” brings together an international team of artists, along with scholars, students and members of the wider South Side community.

“People are still trying to process everything that happened in that era,” explained program curator Tracye Matthews, associate director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture. She said Hampton’s life and death shed light on a period that brought intense international turmoil and new approaches to political action.

Matthews, who wrote her doctoral dissertation on the Black Panther Party, hopes the event will highlight overlooked aspects of the party’s legacy. The Panthers were “key in forming a multi-racial political coalition that was striking and unprecedented at the time and helped to create the fertile ground that led to other cross-cultural movements in the city,” she said.

The centerpiece of the program is the U.S. premiere of the exhibition “Revenir à Chicago/Return to Chicago: Tribute to Fred Hampton” created by French artists Jean Michele Bruyère and the LFKs-Marseille collective. The exhibition, which runs through Jan. 21, 2014, at the Arts Incubator in Washington Park, will feature experimental films, sound and photography installations, and performance happenings.

Bruyère conceived the project in the aftermath of the 2005 uprisings in largely African and Arab immigrant communities in suburban Paris, aiming to explore and dissect the similarities and differences with the 1960s Black Power revolts in the United States.

“Revenir à Chicago/Return to Chicago” opens at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 4 at the Arts Incubator.

Other events in the series include a discussion on urban trauma and racial violence at the Franke Institute for the Humanities on Monday, Dec. 2; a screening of “The Murder of Fred Hampton” at the Logan Center on Friday, Dec. 6; and a conversation with former members on the legacy of the Illinois Black Panther Party 45 years after its founding. A full listing of events and program details is available here.

“Black Power!: In Tribute to Fred Hampton” is presented by the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture, the France Chicago Center, and LKFs-Marseille.

The program also received major support from the Institut Français, UChicago Arts and the Arts Council, the Arts + Public Life Initiative, Logan Center Exhibitions, the Office of the Executive Vice President, the Office of Civic Engagement and the BPP Illinois Chapter History Project.