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Eldridge Cleaver (August 31, 1935May 1, 1998) was an influential writer, social critic and radical intellectual and the author of Soul on Ice, Post-Prison Writings and Speeches and Target Zero. Cleaver served as the Minister of Information for the Black Panther Party and Head of the International Section of the Panthers while in exile in Cuba and Algeria.

Soul on Ice is Cleaver's most influential work and is still relevant today for having "laid down an accessible theoretical foundation of grassroots intellectual engagement for independent radical Black writers".


Born in Wabbaseka, Arkansasmarker, Cleaver moved with his family to Phoenixmarker and then to Los Angelesmarker. He has a son, Riley, with an ex girlfriend. From 1967- December 1997 he was married to Kathleen Neal Cleaver. They have son Ahmad Maceo Eldridge Cleaver and daughter Joju Younghi Cleaver.

As a teenager he was involved in petty crime and spent time in detention centers. In 1957 Cleaver was arrested for committing rape and was convicted of assault with intent to murder .

Black Panther Party

While in prison, he wrote a number of philosophical and political essays, first published in Ramparts magazine and then in book form as Soul on Ice, which were influential in the black power movement. In them, Cleaver explained his views on race relations, and recounted his involvement in crime, including serial rape. Cleaver was released from prison in 1966, after which he joined the Oaklandmarker-based Black Panther Party, serving as Minister of Information, or spokesperson.

He was a Presidential candidate in 1968 on the ticket of the Peace and Freedom Party. Cleaver and his running mate Judith Mage received 36,571 votes (0.05%). Later that year, he was shot during an ambush of Oaklandmarker police in which fellow Black Panther member Bobby Hutton was killed and two police officers were injured. Cleaver later said that he had led the Panther group on a deliberate ambush of the police officers, thus provoking the shoot-out . Charged with attempted murder, he jumped bail to flee to Cubamarker and later went to Algeria. Following Timothy Leary's Weather Underground assisted prison escape, Leary stayed with Cleaver in Algeriamarker; however, Cleaver placed Leary under "revolutionary arrest" as a counter-revolutionary, though Leary was later released. Cleaver later left Algeria and spent time in Francemarker.

Cleaver returned to the United States in 1975, and subsequently renounced the Black Panthers. Legal wrangling ended in his being sentenced to probation for assault.

Soul on Fire

Playing on the title of his most famous book, Soul on Ice, Cleaver published Soul on Fire in 1978. Cleaver revealed several aspects of his exile in Algeria:
  • Cleaver was supported by regular stipends from the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, which the United States was then bombing.
  • Cleaver was followed by other former criminals turned revolutionaries, many of whom hijacked planes to get to Algeria. The Algerians expected Cleaver to keep his protégés in line, which he described as increasingly difficult as their increasing numbers stretched his North Vietnamese allowance to the breaking point. Cleaver organized a stolen car ring to employ his revolutionary protégés, stealing cars in Europe to sell in Africa. Around this time Cleaver discovered his wife had a lover. The lover was subsequently murdered by persons unknown.
  • Cleaver eventually fled Algeria out of fear for his life. He could no longer control his protégés and the Algerian police were cracking down on them. He subsequently lived underground for a time in Francemarker.
  • Cleaver became a "born again" Christian during his year of isolation, while living underground. He later led a short-lived revivalist ministry called Eldridge Cleaver Crusades

In the 1980s

In the early 1980s, Cleaver became disillusioned with what he saw as the commercial nature of mainstream evangelical Christianity and flirted with alternatives, including Sun Myung Moon's campus ministry organization CARP, and Mormonism. Cleaver was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints though shortly thereafter fell into inactivity.

Around 1980, Cleaver applied for a job as a technical writer at Apple Computermarker. His résumé listed a single publication: Soul on Ice, which was notable for unconventional views on politics and race relations, as well as unconventional grammar and word usage.

Around 1980, he also became a fixture at Palo Altomarker's Peninsula Bible Church, which was the spiritual home of Chuck Colson and many right-wing causes. He also designed and marketed a line of men's clothing called Eldridge de Paris, including pants with a codpiece called a "Cleaver Sleeve".

By the 1980s, Cleaver had become a conservative Republican. He appeared at various Republican events and spoke at a California Republican State Central Committee meeting regarding his political transformation. He endorsed Ronald Reagan for President in 1980 and 1984. In 1986 Cleaver embarked on an unsuccessful campaign to win the United States Senate seat held by Democratic incumbent Sen. Alan Cranston, as he received fewer than two percent of the vote in the Republican Party primary.


Eldridge Cleaver died at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center on May 1, 1998. His family asked that the hospital not reveal the cause of death, although he was known to have diabetes and prostate cancer.. He is buried in at Mountain View Cemetery in Altadenamarker, Californiamarker.Is also known for being on a supposed 'hitlist' from the famous Zodiac Killer in the Los Angeles area.


  1. New York Times Obituary
  2. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968; paperback Dell/Delta, 1968
  3. Former Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver Dies at 62, by Jenifer Warren, The Los Angeles Times, 5/2/98
  4. [1]
  5. Kate Coleman, 1980, "Souled Out: Eldridge Cleaver Admits He Ambushed Those Cops." New West Magazine.
  6. entry for Eldridge Cleaver
  7. CNN Obituary
  8. [2]

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