Stanley McKinney was just 15 when he first met the revolutionary socialist and activist Fred Hampton in January 1969. The encounter quickly changed McKinney’s life, leading him to become an original member of Hampton’s Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party. In December of that same year, Hampton was assassinated by the FBI and the Chicago Police Department. He was only 21 years old.
Now 67, McKinney belongs to the Save The Hampton House Committee, which recently raised more than $350,000 to purchase, restore and maintain the historic leader’s two-flat childhood home at 804 S. 17th Ave. in Maywood, Illinois. The new HBO movie “Judas and the Black Messiah,” which earned nearly $2 million in box office sales on its opening weekend, may have been a factor in surpassing the fundraiser’s goal. With nearly $360,000 raised so far, the Committee plans to transform the home into a museum, community center and recording studio.
Billy “Che” Brooks, former deputy minister of education for the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, was also a student when he first met Hampton in the fall of 1968. Brooks said Hampton was the catalyst that drew him into the Black Panther Party.
“There was just something about him that immediately made me like him,” Brooks said. “He was honest, he was intrepid — but, more so, he exemplified the type of qualities that you would look for in someone that you want to hang out with, that you want to be around; that you would listen to.”
Redacted talked with McKinney to discuss Hampton’s legacy, growing up Black in Chicago and the Save The Hampton House Committee.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Redacted: What is the history behind the Save The Hampton House Committee?
McKinney: In March of 2018, The [Hampton] House went into foreclosure and was in desperate need of repairs. So Fred Hampton Jr., who is the son of Fred Hampton, got involved with trying to acquire the property because this is a house that his dad and his grandparents grew up in.
And then we found that the house was definitely in need of serious repairs, so Chairman Jr. basically set up shop. He moved in there and started to make some changes. We started bringing some of the archive of photos over to The Hampton House. Then we started the process of trying to figure out how we would go about raising funds, and a committee was put together — Save The Hampton House Committee — and we started a GoFundMe and started raising funds because of the mortgage. But nevertheless, we were able to raise money to save the house and extinguish that mortgage and high water bill.
And then we sat down and put our heads together with a game plan. OK, where do we go from here? Now that we saved the Hampton House, what about a museum? We talked with Chairman Jr., and with his approval, he agreed that this was the right move. So we approached the local authorities, the Village of Maywood’s Preservation Committee and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. They were very supportive.
R: Why is this important to you personally?
M: As an original member of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, I worked right alongside Chairman Fred Hampton Sr. The community always says that the legacy of the Party belongs to the people. That message is still resonating in the hearts and the minds of the people.
So I think with the museum, it’ll be able to educate our youth today, and it complements many of the conditions that brought about the Black Panther Party. One of the key issues was police brutality — that’s still in existence — and health care and struggles in voting and the things that we just see happen — the racism. The things we just saw happen in D.C.
R: Why is the Hampton House so important to Chicago’s history and cultural landscape?
M: To me, the significance of the Hampton museum is interconnected with the international struggle of the many things that are still going on in the world.
R: What motivated you to be part of the Black Panther Party at just 16?
M: Well, police brutality, racism, housing issues — many of the same issues we’re dealing with today. At the time that I was coming along, we were put out of schools because we were Black. Blacks could not obtain loans to buy properties and neighborhoods. And the police, the police were just… they were just running rampant, sticking guns up to our heads, torturing us with toothpicks under our fingernails. So those conditions [made it] very easy for me to say, “Well, I need to address these issues.” And the vehicle of the Black Panther Party was perfect.
R: How does being an original member give you a different perspective?
M: It’s really a personal mission, especially when you’ve known someone as dynamic as Chairman Fred. And then I had the pleasure of also knowing his siblings. I knew his brother, I knew his sister, I knew his mom. I’m honored to even be a part of this. This is a personal mission to me — not just a political one, but also a personal mission.
Image of Stanley McKinney by Leila Wills / Caption: Stanley McKinney stands in front of a photograph exhibit of the Black Panther Party at the West Side Justice Center in Chicago. McKinney co-curated the exhibit with Black Panther Party member Henry Nesbitt.