'Judas and the Black Messiah' Is Based on the Story of a Black Panther Member

Chrissy Bobic - Author

Feb. 12 2021, Updated 1:34 p.m. ET

LaKeith Stanfield in 'Judas and the Black Messiah'
Source: HBO Max

When Judas and the Black Messiah dropped on HBO Max and a limited number of movie theaters, it sparked questions among its viewers about what the real story is and how close to it the movie came. As it turns out, the film's main goal is to tell the story of real-life Black Panther Party activist Fred Hampton, the mole who infiltrated the organization, and Hampton's assassination by the FBI.

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For those who aren't informed about his 1969 death in his Chicago apartment, it came after an early morning raid and after years of infiltrated work by FBI informant William O'Neal. As the name of the film suggests, the "Black Messiah" was Hampton, while his "Judas" was O'Neal. And the rise of Hampton's career within the Black Panther Party as well as his eventual death are both depicted in the movie.

fred hampton
Source: Getty
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What is the true story of 'Judas and the Black Messiah'?

Fred Hampton was not only a member of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s, but he was also someone the public had come to seek as an influential and motivational speaker for the rights of Black people in the United States. Because of his standing within the organization, he became the chairman of the Illinois chapter and the deputy chairman of the national Black Panther Party.

The FBI saw his influence on the general public as dangerous and set out to take him down and stop him from furthering the Black Panther Party's agenda in Chicago. He was allegedly set to merge the party with a local street gang, thereby increasing the amount of members and gaining more power to further his and the Black Panther Party's goal in helping Black individuals.

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To stop this, the FBI made a deal with a teenage criminal, William O'Neal, who had been picked up for car theft. In exchange for dropping the charges, O'Neal was tasked with infiltrating the Black Panther Party to get information on Hampton and help the FBI in taking him down. One of those tasks was reporting back the layout of Hampton's Chicago apartment.

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In the early morning hours of Dec. 4, 1969, the FBI raided Hampton's apartment and, in a blaze of at least 90 bullets, intimidated other members of the Black Panther Party, shot and killed a member who had been sitting on guard duty, and killed Hampton in his bed. It was later revealed that Hampton had been drugged with barbiturates to keep him asleep during the raid.

Where is Fred Hampton's son now?

At the time of the 1969 raid, Hampton's fiancé Deborah Johnson was in bed with him and was nine months pregnant. Police forcibly removed her from the bed before they shot Hampton. Fred Hampton Jr. was born on Dec. 29, 1969.

He serves as the president and chairman of the Prisoners of Conscience Committee and the Black Panther Party Cubs. He was also involved in consulting for the making of Judas and the Black Messiah and was there on-set. Fred Hampton Jr. continues to carry on his father's legacy.

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