Watch the shocking interview with the real-life Judas of ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’
William O'Neal, the real-life FBI informant that the movie is based on, gave an interview about his involvement in the Black Panther Party
As audiences take in Judas and the Black Messiah, curiosity has grown about the real-life Judas at the center of the film. In the movie, produced by Ryan Coogler and directed by Shaka King, Daniel Kaluuya stars as Illinois Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton and LaKeith Stanfield plays O’Neal.
The film is a dramatic portrayal based on the true story of a Chicago Police raid that resulted in the death of Hampton who played a pivotal role in the rise of the Black Panther Party.
O’Neal was able to infiltrate the Black Panther Party as the chapter’s head of security while working with federal authorities who aimed to dismantle the efforts of the community-centered organization. Information O’Neal provided helped Chicago police ambush and kill Hampton in his apartment as he slept next to his pregnant girlfriend.
The acclaimed documentary on the history of African-Americans, Eyes on the Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads 1965–1985, featured commentary from O’Neal and others who played a pivotal role in the rise and takedown of the Chicago chapter and ultimately the entire Black Panther organization.
Uploaded to the streaming platform YouTube by Pilot Media, the documentary is broken down into two parts, the second featuring a 1989 interview with O’Neal, who attempts to explain his actions.
“I remember walking out of the office and looking through a little clearing over on the next block, which was right in front of the Monroe street address, and seeing a lot of police cars over there. At that time, Bobby Rush came to the office, he had just come from over there, maybe the coroner’s office…We walked back over there, and we both were speechless. We just walked through the house and saw what had taken place and where he [Fred Hampton] had died. It was shocking,” O’Neil said of the deadly raid.
He shares his realization that the information he supplied was the driving force behind the police action which left 21-year-old Hampton and another Black Panther leader, 22-year-old Mark Clark, dead.
“I just began to realize that the information that I supplied leading up to that moment, had facilitated that raid. I knew that indirectly, I contributed, and I felt bad about it. Then I got mad…and then I had to conceal those feelings, which made it worse. I couldn’t say anything. I just had to continue to play the role.”
O’Neal died by suicide the next year, according to a 1990 report from the Chicago Reader. Family members described his last few hours to the news outlet, sharing that shortly before the incident he “started acting kind of strange.”
Sometime after Hampton’s murder, per the Reader, he was accepted into the federal witness protection program, living from then on as William Hart in California. He returned to Chicago in 1984. An uncle, Ben Heard shared that the day of the suicide, O’Neal attempted to jump out of a window before running into expressway traffic where he was fatally struck by a vehicle.
“He’d stay in there [the bathroom] 10 or 15 minutes. The last time he stayed 20 minutes. He came out in a rage and he tried to jump out my living room window [which is on the second floor]. I stopped him. I grabbed him by the ankles. I wrestled with him but he broke free and he ran out the door,” Heard remarked.
Read More: Who were Judas and the Black Messiah?
According to Rush, now an Illinois congressman, Judas and the Black Messiah is a must-see. As theGrio reported, the former Black Panther was pleased by the film which highlighted a monumental part of his own life.
“[It] is a very important movie. This movie must be seen by all freedom-seeking, justice-seeking, good-hearted Americans because it really is a movie that shows all to see this brilliant, young, courageous Black man, Fred Hampton, who was an upstanding, courageous man,” Rush shared with theGrio’s April Ryan.
In the documentary, O’Neal shared how he was coerced into helping the government at age 17.
“My recruitment by the FBI was very efficient,” he said. “Very simple really, I stole a car and went joyriding over the state limit. They had a potential case against me, and I was looking for an opportunity to work it off. A couple of months later, that opportunity came when FBI agent Roy Mitchell asked me to go down to the local office of the Black Panther Party, and try to gain membership.”
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