Fred Hampton Day

Fred Hampton

LeftSpot has put out a call for a December 4 Day of Blogging Inspired by Fred Hampton. Exactly 38 years ago, Fred Hampton was killed by the agents of the U.S. state while serving the people as a leader of the Black Panther Party of Chicago. As Mao wrote in an often-quoted essay, “All men must die, but death can vary in its significance. The ancient Chinese writer Szuma Chien said, ‘Though death befalls all men alike, it may be weightier than Mount Tai or lighter than a feather.’ To die for the people is weightier than Mount Tai, but to work for the fascists and die for the exploiters and oppressors is lighter than a feather.” Fred Hampton’s death was much heavier than many Mount Tais and his memory, like those of all of our martyrs, will be kept alive as long as exploited and oppressed people struggle for a better world.

To read more about Fred Hampton and view a documentary on the life of this revolutionary brother, I point readers to LeftSpot. And, as a small contribution to Fred Hampton Day, I’m sharing a poem from an earlier period that brings out the historical thread between Black liberation and communism–a poem that describes the national oppression of Black people in this state organized on the basis of white supremacy, the need to fight against this oppression that affects Black people of all classes, and the importance that such a fight be led by a communist outlook. It was first published in 1934 in the radical leftist literary journal The New Masses, a product of a different time when the U.S. left had a much more vibrant cultural sphere. As the Jena Six await their fates at the hands of the bourgeois justice system, as one million Black people linger in U.S. prisons (ultimately not the product of some “prison-industrial complex,” but the policy and necessity of the U.S. capitalist-imperialist state), and as all progressive people remember the genocidal treatment of Black people in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, here is a poem and a vision as sustenance for the struggle.


I Have Seen Black Hands
by Richard Wright


I am black and I have seen black hands, millions and millions of them,
Out of millions of bundles of wool and flannel tiny black fingers have reached restlessly and hungrily for life.
Reached out for the black nipples at the black breasts of black mothers,
And they’ve held red, green, blue, yellow, orange, white, and purple toys in the childish grips of possession.
And chocolate drops, peppermint sticks, lollypops, wineballs, ice cream cones, and sugared cookies in fingers sticky and gummy,
And they’ve held balls and bats and gloves and marbles and jack-knives and sling-shots and spinning tops in the thrill of sport and play.
And pennies and nickels and dimes and quarters and sometimes on New Year’s, Easter, Lincoln’s Birthday, May Day, a brand new green dollar bill,
They’ve held pens and rulers and maps and tablets and books in palms spotted and smeared with ink,
And they’ve held dice and cards and half-pink flasks and cue sticks and cigars and cigarettes in the pride of new maturity . . .


I am black and I have seen black hands, millions and millions of them
They were tired and awkward and calloused and grimy and covered with hangnails,
And they were caught in the fast-moving belts of machines and snagged and smashed and crushed.
And they jerked up and down at the throbbing machines massing taller and taller the heaps of gold in the banks of bosses,
And they piled higher and higher the steel, iron, the lumber, wheat, rye, the oats, corn, the cotton, the wool, the oil, the coal, the meat, the fruit, the glass, and the stone until there was too much to be used,
And they grabbed guns and slung them on their shoulders and marched and groped in trenches and fought and killed and conquered nations who were customers for the goods black hands had made.
And again black hands stacked goods higher and higher until there was too much to be used,
And then the black hand held trembling at the factory gates the dreaded lay-off slip,
And the black hands hung idle and swung empty and grew soft and got weak and bony from unemployment and starvation,
And they grew nervous and sweaty, and opened and shut in anguish and doubt and hesitation and irresolution . . .


I am black and I have seen black hands, millions and millions of them
Reaching hesitantly out of days of slow death for the goods they had made, but the bosses warned that the goods were private and did not belong to them,
And the black hands struck desperately out in defence of life and there was blood, but the enraged bosses decreed that this too was wrong,
And the black hands felt the cold steel bars of the prison they had made, in despair tested their strength and found that they could neither bend nor break them,
And the black hands fought and scratched and held back but a thousand white hands took them and tied them,
And the black hands lifted palms in mute and futile supplication to the sodden faces of mobs wild in the revelries of sadism,
And the black hands strained and clawed and struggled in vain at the noose that tightened about the black throat,
And the black hands waved and beat fearfully at the tall flames that cooked and charred the black flesh . . .


I am black and I have seen black hands
Raised in fists of revolt, side by side with the white fists of white workers,
And some day–and it is only this which sustains me
Some day there shall be millions and millions of them,
On some red day in a burst of fists on a new horizon!


2 responses to “Fred Hampton Day

  1. Thanks a lot for putting up information about Fred Hampton and Chairman Mao’s quote.

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