Collection consists primarily of snapshots of Eldridge Cleaver's career from the
mid-1960s to the early 1980s. Earliest materials relate to his affiliation with the Black Panther Party. Also
contains photographs taken during his exile abroad from 1968 to 1975. The majority of photographs was taken
after Cleaver's 1975 return to the United States and relate primarily to his activities in conservative politics
and the evangelical Christian movement.
Leroy Eldridge Cleaver was born on August 3, 1935 in Wabbaseka, Arkansas. In 1956 his family moved to Los
Angeles. During his youth he was convicted for various theft and drug offenses and spent time in reformatories
and the California State Prison at Soledad. In 1958 he was convicted of assault and spent 8 years in the San
Quentin and Folsom prisons. During this period of incarceration he became a member and minister of the Nation of
Islam and a follower of Malcolm X. With the assistance of attorney and lover Beverly Axelrod, Cleaver had
several of his prison writings published in the left-wing periodical Ramparts. The
support which his writings earned him from the U.S. intellectual community was influential in gaining Cleaver's
release from prison in 1965. In 1967, while living in the San Francisco Bay Area, Cleaver married Kathleen Neal,
an activist in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. That same year he befriended Huey P. Newton and
Bobby Seale, co-founders of the Black Panther Party, and soon became the Party's Minister of Information. The
following year Cleaver published Soul On Ice -- a collection of essays named Book
of the Year by the New York Times -- and ran as a candidate for the U.S. Presidency
for the Peace and Freedom Party. Later that year Cleaver and fellow Black Panther Bobby Hutton were involved in
a shootout with Oakland Police. Hutton was killed and Cleaver was charged with murder. While awaiting trial,
Cleaver fled to Cuba. He would spend the next seven years in exile, living also in Algeria and Paris during that
time. During his exile, Cleaver formed the International Section of the Black Panther Party in Algeria; met with
political leaders in North Vietnam, North Korea and China; quickly became disillusioned with Marxist-Leninist
beliefs; and eventually broke ties with the Black Panthers. During this time he and Kathleen had two children,
Antonio Maceo and Joju. While in Paris, Cleaver experienced a spiritual transformation which led to his
conversion to Christianity and conservative politics. In 1975 Cleaver negotiated with the F.B.I. for his return
to the United States as a prisoner. In 1977, after his renunciation of his earlier political activity and his
release from prison, he founded the Eldridge Cleaver Crusades, an evangelical Christian movement. Cleaver would
later have affiliations with Sun Myung Moon's Collegiate Association of Research Principles and the Mormon
Church. In the 1980s Cleaver ran two unsuccessful campaigns for U.S. Congress. He later became addicted to crack
cocaine and was arrested on several drug-related charges. In 1987 Kathleen Cleaver divorced him. In the 1990s
Cleaver kicked his addiction and worked as a diversity consultant for the University of La Verne in Southern
California. Eldridge Cleaver died May 1, 1998.
Number of containers: 10 boxes, 1 oversize folder (circa 1,720 photographic prints, circa 480 negatives,
circa 440 slides).
Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or reproduce
must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services. Permission for publication is given on behalf of
The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of
the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the user. See: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/reference/permissions.html.
Collection is open for research, with the following exceptions: RESTRICTED NEGATIVES: Use of negatives only
by permission of the appropriate curator. Inquiries concerning these materials should be directed, in writing,
to the Head of Public Services, The Bancroft Library.