Chicago Film Archives is proud to announce that the National Film Preservation Board has selected The Murder of Fred Hampton (1971) for the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress. Launched in 1989 to showcase and promote the preservation of America’s film legacies, the National Film Preservation Board selects 25 films from a pool of thousands of titles submitted by the public each year. The chosen films represent works of enduring importance to the American people, and are selected for their cultural, historical, and aesthetic significance.
Produced in 1971 by The Film Group, The Murder of Fred Hampton and the tragic history it encapsulates garnered little attention during its time. The filmmakers initially intended the film to be an exploration of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party. However, the film took a sudden turn when charismatic Illinois Black Panther leader, Chairman Fred Hampton, was murdered in his sleep by a tactical unit of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, working in conjunction with the Chicago police, on December 4, 1969.
While CFA had many of The Film Group’s shorter documentary films photochemically conserved and exhibited in the past, the legacy of Fred Hampton and the documentary made about him began to gain traction in the past few years, the story more relevant than ever. In 2018, UCLA performed the delicate photochemical conservation work on a 35mm print deposited in their archive by Carol Gray, filmmaker Mike Gray’s widow. A 35mm print of The Murder of Fred Hampton is also preserved as part of Chicago Film Archives’ Film Group Collection. Other films in that collection include Cicero March (1966) and American Revolution II (1969).
Now, The Murder of Fred Hampton is recognized by the public as a painfully relevant document of state-sanctioned violence. Each year, from 2019 to 2021, CFA has submitted this powerful film for the NFPB’s consideration. The third time was the charm.
The Murder of Fred Hampton joins another Film Group documentary on the National Film Registry. In 2005, Chicago Tribune reporter John Owens discovered Cicero March (1966) in CFA’s early film acquisitions and called it the “crown jewel” of the collection. Eight years later in 2013, Cicero March became the first CFA film selected for the Registry.
Today, the Library of Congress’ selection of the Film Group’s feature documentary The Murder of Fred Hampton brings a measure of fulfillment to CFA’s mission of saving and preserving the important (but often unknown and unheralded) works of Midwestern filmmakers.
You can watch the full film in HD on our Vimeo: