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Sat, 08.31.1935

Eldridge Cleaver, Activist born

Eldridge Cleaver

Eldridge Cleaver was born on this date in 1935. He was a Black activist and administrator.

From Wabbaseka, Arkansas, his family moved first to Phoenix and then to Los Angeles, whereas a teen-ager Cleaver began running into trouble with the law.  In 1957, after arrests for theft and selling marijuana, he was convicted of assault with intent to murder and sent to California's San Quentin and Folsom prisons.  While there, he wrote a powerful set of essays outlining his views on racial issues and revolutionary violence.

He began reading books on Black civil rights and was particularly influenced by the writings of Malcolm X.  After leaving prison in 1966, Cleaver joined the Black Panther Party where he was appointed as the organization's minister of information. Cleaver's memoirs, "Soul on Ice" (1968), established him as an important Black political figure.

After a shoot-out with police in April 1968, Cleaver fled to Cuba, he returned to the United States in 1975. Cleaver was found guilty of assault when tried for his role in the shoot-out.  By then, a born-again Christian, he received only five year’s probation.

But in the mid-1980s, Cleaver became addicted to crack cocaine, which led to new brushes with the law. He was placed on probation in 1988 after convictions for burglary and cocaine possession. Four years later he was arrested again for cocaine possession, but a judge threw out the charges after determining Cleaver was improperly arrested.  In 1994, Cleaver almost died from a blow to the head administered by another drug addict. With the help of his family, he got clean and re-immersed himself in evangelical Christianity.

At the time of his death, Cleaver was working as a diversity consultant for the University of La Verne, near Los Angeles. A month before his death, Cleaver appeared at an Earth Day conference in Portland, Oregon. Eldridge Cleaver died on May 1st, 1998.

To Become a Community Service Manager


Soul on Ice
by Eldridge Cleaver
Copyright, 1968
ISBN: 038533379X

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