Judas and the Black Messiah tells the story of Fred Hampton (played by Daniel Kaluuya), the Deputy Chairman of the Illinois Chicago Black Panther Party and the “placed” comrade and informant William O’Neal (played by LaKeith Stanfield). To “other” races and officials, Hampton looked like a threat and terrorist but to black people, he was a man looking for social change. He, along with the Black Panther Party, believed in fighting back and holding the police accountable. Even though slavery had “ended” in 1865, Black people could not vote equally until 1965 and don’t get me started on black women.
Fred Hampton wanted unity and equally; he also wasn’t no dummy when it came to politics. During this time, the 1960’s, Dr. Martin Luther King has been assassinated and everyone knew the government had something to do with it. Fred was a threat to the police and even the government because he was fearless, direct but not a terrorist. The FBI hated him so much that they assassinated him, with the help of William O’Neal—a black man who was facing felony charges and wanted out.
Informant, snitch, backstabber O’Neal was a car thief amongst other things. When he got caught stealing a car, the FBI—specifically Roy Mitchell offered him a deal. The deal was to get close to Fred Hampton, report back all his findings to Mitchell, in exchange for money and no prison time. O’Neal did just that and that included telling the were abouts of Hampton, drawing up floor plans of the Chicago Headquarters and even Hampton’s home. When O’Neal gave pushback to Mitchell, he was reminded that he is facing prison time and if he runs, he will be found.
O’Neal went as far as drugging Hampton the day he was assassinated because he knew that he was going to get killed and he wanted Hampton to not feel his death. On the night of December 4, 1969, the Cook County police raided Fred Hampton’s apartment, injuring several other members and shooting Hampton twice in the head. His fiancée Deborah Johnson was 9 months pregnant at the time with his son and was just feet away from his assassination.
O’Neal was interviewed in 1990 explaining why and how he became an informant and disloyal “member” to the Black Panther Party. The interview aired on April 13, 1989; he committed suicide by walking into traffic on January 15, 1990.
Kaluuya and Stanfield played these roles well compared to the actual footage of Fred Hampton and William O’Neal. Both actors have a great range of acting jobs. LaKeith playing a romance role in The Photograph; or a free-spirit spacey friend in the FX show Atlanta, or a proper black guy in the sunken place in Get Out. Daniel playing a regular guy trying to escape white people in Get Out; or a Marvel character who serves as the King’s right hand man in Black Panther.
Overall, the film was informative and a history lesson. If you don’t know the truth about Fred Hampton and had any misconceptions, I’m sure they are clear now. Witnesses, including Deborah Johnson can attest to his bravery and leadership. What are your thoughts on the film?