A Black Panther in the great white north

By Costa Maragos Posted: October 31, 2016 6:00 a.m.

Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, centre, speaking to the Carillon Newspaper with fellow Black Panther members Willie Calvert and Jeraldine “Jerry” Aldridge. It was to be one of Hampton’s final public appearances.
Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, centre, speaking to the Carillon Newspaper with fellow Black Panther members Willie Calvert and Jeraldine “Jerry” Aldridge. It was to be one of Hampton’s final public appearances. Courtesy of The Carillon.

October marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party in the U.S. It’s a milestone worth noting considering the Black Panther Party’s actions during the height of the civil rights movement.

However, there is a significant but little known U of R connection to the Black Panthers. It was the visit to campus in November of 1969, by the dynamic chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, Fred Hampton.

Dr. Dawn Flood, associate professor of history at the U of R’s Campion College, knows the story well and documents it in her research paper published by the “Journal for the Study of Radicalism.” The piece is part of Flood’s body of work that examines black power in Chicago in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.

Dawn Flood
Dr. Dawn Flood, associate professor of history at the U of R’s Campion College, published research that recounts the Regina visit by one of the Black Panther Party’s most dynamic leaders. Photo: External Relations

Fred Hampton lived in Chicago but he certainly had a national profile, on par with the founders of the party, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale.

Hampton was invited to the U of R campus by the Regina Campus Students’ Union.
 
“Hampton and his fellow Panthers accepted the invitation to Regina, in part to raise funds but also because Hampton like many other Panther leaders was very committed to organizing the people,” says Flood.  

The mood on campus was ripe for such a visit.

“U of R students were very much interested in civil rights issues and looked across the border as kind of a model for how to pattern their own activism. Of course racial issues in Regina centered on the status of the Métis and problems of impoverished First Nations People,” says Flood.

“On campus the student newspaper The Carillon reported 600 to 700 people came to hear Hampton speak which was a pretty good turnout, given the student population at the time. There was a positive write up in the Carillon. There was a radical newspaper in town which of course Hampton granted an interview to.”  

Hampton’s visit caused a huge stir.

“There were tonnes of letters to the editor and editorials about this visit in the Leader-Post. People seemed to be upset about the fact that Fred Hampton and the other two routinely referred to the police as ‘pigs’ and it was seen as so disrespectful,” says Flood.

“I think it is because a lot of people writing into the Leader-Post never encountered this type of police discrimination and police abuse as the Panthers had in the U.S. This, in spite of the fact that local authorities including the Regina police, had also been accused of abuses against local minorities and student radicals.”

Hampton made the effort to reach out to local First Nations and Métis leaders. He met with Harry Daniels, one of the founders and then head of the Saskatchewan Métis Society.
 
“Daniels had taken the fight to the federal level in terms of trying to gain Aboriginal status for Métis. I don’t have records of what they (Daniels and Hampton) talked about but I imagine it was an interesting conversation,” says Flood.

As it turned out, Hampton’s speech at the U of R was one of his last public appearances. Three weeks after his Regina appearance, Hampton was shot dead by Chicago police during a raid at his home.

On December 12, 1969, more than 100 people, including Harry Daniels, held a torchlight parade in downtown Regina in memory of Fred Hampton.

As Flood points out in her paper; “The Black Panthers’ trip to the Canadian prairies captures a moment when activists like Fred Hampton attempted to put into practice what many radicals of the time were trying to accomplish.”
 
Please visit here to read Dawn Flood’s research paper, “A Black Panther in the Great White North.”

Flood is currently working on a research project “Black Power and Community Activism in Mayor Daley’s Chicago.”