Eldridge Cleaver biography

Eldridge Cleaver

Political Activist, Author

1935 – 1998


Who was Eldridge Cleaver?

Leroy Eldridge Cleaver, better known as Eldridge Cleaver, was a writer and political activist who became an early leader of the Black Panther Party. His book Soul On Ice is a collection of essays praised by The New York Times Book Review at the time of its publication as "brilliant and revealing".

Cleaver went on to become a prominent member of the Black Panthers, having the titles Minister of Information and Head of the International Section of the Panthers while a fugitive from the United States criminal justice system in Cuba and Algeria. As editor of the official Panther's newspaper, Cleaver's influence on the direction of the Party was rivaled only by founders Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. Cleaver and Newton eventually fell out with each other, resulting in a split that weakened the party.

Cleaver wrote in Soul on Ice: "If a man like Malcolm X could change and repudiate racism, if I myself and other former Muslims can change, if young whites can change, then there is hope for America."

After spending seven years in exile in Cuba, Algeria, and France, Cleaver returned to the US in 1975, where he became involved in various religious groups, as well as becoming a conservative Republican, appearing at Republican events.

Famous Quotes:

  • You are either part of the solution or part of the problem.
  • The paper tiger hero, James Bond, offering the whites a triumphant image of themselves, is saying what many whites want desperately to hear reaffirmed: I am still the White Man, lord of the land, licensed to kill, and the world is still an empire at my feet.
  • In prison, those things withheld from and denied to the prisoner become precisely what he wants most of all.
  • Too much agreement kills the chat.
  • If a man like Malcolm X could change and repudiate racism, if I myself and other former Muslims can change, if young whites can change, then there is hope for America.
  • Americans think of themselves collectively as a huge rescue squad on twenty-four-hour call to any spot on the globe where dispute and conflict may erupt.
  • The white youth of today have begun to react to the fact that the American Way of Life is a fossil of history. What do they care if their old baldheaded and crew-cut elders don't dig their caveman mops? They couldn't care less about the old, stiff-assed honkies who don't like their new dances: Frog, Monkey, Jerk, Swim, Watusi. All they know is that it feels good to swing to way-out body-rhythms instead of dragging across the dance floor like zombies to the dead beat of mind-smothered Mickey Mouse music.
  • All the gods are dead except the god of war.
  • The Twist was a guided missile, launched from the ghetto into the very heart of suburbia. The Twist succeeded, as politics, religion, and law could never do, in writing in the heart and soul what the Supreme Court could only write on the books.
  • Respect commands itself and it can neither be given nor withheld when it is due.


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Aug 31, 1935
Also known as
  • Eldridge Leroy Cleaver
  • Leroy Eldridge Cleaver
  • Mormonism
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  • African American
  • United States of America
Lived in
  • Arkansas
May 1, 1998

on July 23, 2013

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