The murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in 2020 sparked an uprising that has brought increased attention to both the role of police violence in communities of color and state repression against activists–Black activists, in particular. Both of these issues have a long history in the United States. The 2021 film Judas and the Black Messiah details part of this history, giving viewers a glimpse into the FBI infiltration of the Black Panther Party and the assassination of two of its leaders, Chairman Fred Hampton Sr. and Defense Captain Mark Clark.
Neutralizing the Revolution: The Black Panther Party and the FBI provides an opportunity to analyze primary sources from the Black Panther Party, Chairman Fred Hampton, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s COINTELPRO operation (1956-1971), which sought to inhibit the effectiveness of Black liberation groups and other activist organizations. These activities provide students with historical context for Judas and the Black Messiah.
The lesson also includes a discussion guide for the film. While the film is historical fiction and dramatizes the events of 1968-1969, it offers a useful window into many important topics: What makes a leader? What is the role of the government in keeping its citizens safe? What do abuses of power in government look like? How does state repression of social movements serve to uphold white supremacy?