ELDRIDGE CLEAVER Biography - Activists, Revolutionaries and other freedom fighters


Biography » activists revolutionaries and other freedom fighters » eldridge cleaver


Eldridge Cleaver                                                             
in full  Leroy Eldridge Cleaver                                               
born 1935, Wabbaseka, near Little Rock, Ark., U.S.                           
died May 1, 1998, Pomona, Calif.                                             
Cleaver was an inmate of correctional institutions in California almost       
constantly from his junior high school days until 1966 for crimes ranging     
from possession of marijuana to assault with intent to murder. While in       
prison, he supplemented his incomplete education with wide reading and       
became a follower of the Black Muslim separatist Malcolm X. He also began     
writing the essays that would eventually be collected in Soul on Ice, and     
whose publication in Ramparts magazine helped him win parole in 1966.         
After being paroled, Cleaver met Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, who had just   
founded the Black Panther Party in Oakland, Calif. Cleaver soon became the   
party's minister of information. The publication in 1968 of Soul on Ice, a   
collection of angry memoirs in which Cleaver traced his political             
evolution while denouncing American racism, made him a leading black         
radical spokesman. In April 1968, however, he was involved in a shoot-out     
in Oakland between Black Panthers and police that left one Panther dead       
and Cleaver and two police officers wounded. Faced with reimprisonment       
after the shoot-out, Cleaver jumped bail in November 1968 and fled first     
to Cuba and then to Algeria.                                                 
Having broken with the Panthers in 1971 and grown disillusioned with         
communism, Cleaver returned voluntarily to the United States in 1975. The     
charges against him were dropped in 1979 when he pled guilty to assault in   
connection with the 1968 shoot-out and was put on five years' probation.     
In his later years Cleaver proclaimed himself a born-again Christian and a   
Republican, engaged in various business ventures, and struggled with an       
addiction to cocaine.