At approximately 4:45 a.m. on December 4, 1969, fourteen police officers opened fire on an apartment located at 2337 West Monroe Street in Chicago, Illinois. In less than ten minutes, police discharged between eighty and one hundred rounds into the apartment. When the shooting stopped, two men were dead and several others wounded. That morning, steady news reports told of a bloody gun battle between police and the notorious Black Panther Party (BPP). The official story, given to the press by the State District Attorney,
was that the police were trying to execute a search warrant when fired on by the Black Panthers. In the following weeks this official version of events began to unravel, replaced by a more disturbing portrait of law enforcement, most notably a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that had helped facilitate “a northern lynching.” 1
Within days of the attack a special commission began to investigate the shooting. One of the cochairs was Roy Wilkins. As executive director of the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Wilkins seemed an ideal choice. Over the course of his thirty-year career, Wilkins had become practically synonymous with civil rights. He was, however, also the most outspoken critic of the concept of “Black Power,” with which many people associated the Black Panthers.