Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, Widows) stars as charismatic Black Panther Party member Fred Hampton. Inspired by the radical activist group's stance on race and community building states away in 1960s Oakland, California, the Illinois native helps grow a new branch of the organization in his local neighborhood. As a leader of the Black Panther Party, Hampton is responsible for securing a nonaggression pact between Chicago's deadliest gangs, forming the Rainbow Coalition to promote racial unity between marginalized groups within the city. Additionally, he promotes the groups free breakfast programs, taught classes, and even supervised a police watch.
Throughout the first year of Hampton's time within the Black Panther Party, his dedication catches the eye of allies and foes alike. The FBI marks him a threat to the stability of the country, and through the COINTELPRO initiative, recruits teenage thief William O'Neal (Lakeith Stanfield) to help the government take Hampton and his comrades out.
O'Neal wins Hampton's trust and is ultimately able to infiltrate the Black Panther Party. But as the young man near the completion of his sinister mission, he begins to see that the intentions of the political organization are nothing like the government is positioning them to be.
"We teach, we nurture, we feed, and we lobby," says Deborah Johnson (played by The Deuce's Dominique Fishback) in the trailer amidst a scene of the Black Panthers feeding the community .
"You ain't tell me it was gonna be like this," O'Neal protests in conversation with the FBI. "These ain't no terrorists!"
The plot of this emotional film follows actual historical events, so it's no spoiler to say that this tale doesn't have a happy ending — Hampton and several of his fellow Black Panthers were murdered during a violent FBI raid in 1969, aided by O'Neal. It's a dark and depressing story, but as the Black community still fights for basic civil rights more than 50 years later, the story of Hampton and the Black Panther Party is more relevant than ever. The struggle for equality rages on, and just like Hampton and others targeted by the government in the 60s, many Black activists are still being treated like terrorists to this day. Freedom is unfortunately hard-earned, oftentimes through bloodshed and violence, and the fight for it continues.
Judas & the Black Messiah is set to air in theaters on February 12, 2021, but the moving biographical drama will also be available for streaming on HBO Max.