Who the HELL is Stew Albert

A Memoir

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A Death In Chicago by Stew Albert

My 30th birthday took place in Chicago on December 4, 1969. I was in Chicago and actively involved in supporting the Chicago 8 conspiracy defendants, including National Panther Chairman Bobby Seale. On December 4, 1969, Chicago Black Panther leader Fred Hampton was murdered in his bed, by Chicago cops. Hampton was deeply asleep at the time because he had taken a pill offered him by a police infiltrator.

Chicago 8 defendant Jerry Rubin, woke me up on the morning of my birthday to give me the terrible news of Fred's murder. The pit of my stomach fell out and I was overcome with chills. Just a few nights before I had met Fred Hampton in the living room of lawyer Bill Kunstler. Hampton was smiling and friendly, a man who was clearly filled with abundant energy and life. And now he was the victim of an American fascist death squad.

We left the house and went to the Federal court room where the Chicago 8 was taking place. Jerry was a defendant and I was an unindicted coconspirator. The white Federal Marshals were smiling and one even boasted of the murder. On that day Black Federal Marshals were unavailable for comment.

The murder of Fred seemed impossible. Not that any of us doubted the pigs would want him dead. But the Chicago 8 trial was covered extensively by the national and world press. The court room was packed with reporters who were growing increasingly angry at the way the government was conducting the trial. You would have the thought the cops would wait for the trial to end and the reporters to clear out of Chicago before they moved on Hampton. But no -- they pigs were too arrogant for that. Why wait? Who cares about the world press anyway.

That night a bunch of us from the trial paid a condolence call on Chicago's Panther Headquarters. The mood was one of grimness and terrible shock. We held an informal meeting at which one of Panthers spoke and declared in very pained tones that while the Chicago Panthers had suffered a terrible loss they were not defeated. They would carry on. I remember that Eldridge Cleaver then phoned the Chicago headquarters from Algeria and this sort of broke up our gathering. As I recall the Cleaver call picked up people's moods.

Thanks to the commitment of Fred Hampton family, lawyers and supporters the truth about the manner and motive of Fred Hampton's death eventually became publicl knowledge. I think the press had some continuing anger over the cops arrogance and played a surprisingly good role in all of this.

Oddly enough on the day before Fred was murdered, the Chicago police with the help of the FBI pulled me out of the court room and arrested me on an old charge, one that had been completely settled. Lawyers, reporters, the Chicago 8 defendants and many others devoted that day to springing me from jail. They knew the charge was false and thought the police might just have some special plans for me. Looking back on this bust, I now think it was a deliberate effort to distract the white radicals, to divert our attention and keep them away from the Panthers and Fred. I guess the American government had given Chicago permission to kill Black Panthers on December 4 but only Black Panthers. Whatever the truth, I always think of Fred Hampton on my birthday and I always remember the Black Panther Party.


More on Stew

Stew Albert was an early supporter of the Black Panther Party from the time his friend Eldridge Cleaver joined up and starting selling Stew on the Party. He was a long time Berkeley and national activist in the peace movement and an editor of the Berkeley Tribe newspaper. Albert was a founding member of the Yippies, a close associate of Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman and a long time friend of Bobby Seale. Stew once ran a protest electoral campaign for Sheriff of Alameda County CA. He received 65,000 votes and carried the city of Berkeley. He is the coauthor of "The Sixties Papers" and the author of " Who The Hell Is Stew Albert?"

-- Stew Albert

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Check out my website at: My memoir Who The Hell is Stew Albert, published by Red Hen Press is now available at your local independent bookstore or through Red Hen Press. For a personally autographed copy, please send a check or money order for $22 (includes s&h) to Stew Albert, Who The Hell. PO Box 13161, Portland OR 97213-0161.