Judas and the Black Messiah: Daniel Kaluuya stars in trailer
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Judas and the Black Messiah has a title which does not give too much away – unless you know the biblical story it is referring to. In The Bible, Judas is the disciple who gives Jesus, the Messiah, up to the authorities to be crucified. With that in mind, this story follows a very similar line, only based on the Black Panther Party in Chicago.
Is Judas and the Black Messiah based on real life?
WARNING: Judas and the Black Messiah spoilers ahead
While the title has an aforementioned biblical meaning, the Black Panther story is, in fact, based on real life.
The Judas in this story is William O’Neal, a man who joined the Black Panther Party in Chicago in 1968 as a young man.
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William had been caught by the FBI for stealing a car, but Roy Martin Mitchell, an agent, offered him a deal in order to get out of charges.
This deal meant he would become a part of the Black Panther Party in Chicago, in order to inform on the region’s party chairman, Fred Hampton.
Fred had been under investigation by the FBI from some time before William’s arrival, and he was placed on the ‘agitator index’ as a militant leader.
William rose up in the ranks of the Black Panthers, soon becoming the head of Fred’s security, meaning he was close to the man most of the time.
Fred was also gaining the attention of the central Black Panther party during his time in Chicago and was mobilising to bring in new members from all around the city.
This, according to the Counter Intelligence programme in the FBI, had to be stopped, as aimed to halt the growth and improvement of the leadership of the party.
According to Ward Churchill’s book about the events, William drew a detailed map of Fred’s apartment, and on December 4, 1969, a team of police raided the apartment.
According to American national archives, the police shot 99 times in the apartment, while the Panthers only shot once, and Fred was killed as he slept.
His fiancee, Deborah Johnson, was nine months pregnant with their son.
Deborah was later interviewed about the raid and said: “I believe Fred Hampton was drugged. The reason why is because when he woke up when the person [Truelock] said, “Chairman, chairman,” he was shaking Fred’s arm, you know, Fred’s arm was folded across the head of the bed.
“And Fred—he just raised his head up real slow. It was like watching a slow motion. He raised. His eyes were open.
“He raised his head up real slow, you know, with his eyes toward the entranceway, toward the bedroom and laid his head back down. That was the only movement he made.”
More than 5,000 attended Fred’s funeral, and activist Jesse Jackson gave the eulogy.
As for William, he was put in witness protection and relocated to California after the events, but returned to Chicago in 1984.
He denied claims he had drugged Fred the night before the murder and gave an interview in 1989 explaining his role in the investigation.
On January 15, 1990, he was hit by a car and killed after running into traffic, which was ruled as suicide though his wife claimed it was accidental.
In the film, Lakeith Stanfield plays William, while Daniel Kaluuya plays Fred, and Dominique Fishback plays Deborah, who now goes by the name Akua Njeri.
Akua told Los Angeles Times she had attended William’s funeral with the intention to ‘spit in the casket,’ but although she attended did not follow through with this act.
She said: “I had planned to spit in the casket and then turn it over.
“But when I got there, it didn’t look like O’Neal in the casket and I froze.
“I kept saying, ‘That’s not him.’ One of the brothers there said, ‘Oh yeah, that’s him.’
“But it was a different O’Neal that was in the casket.
“So I didn’t get to do what I had planned for days to do.”
Judas and the Black Messiah is available to rent on video-on-demand now
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