Eldridge Cleaver Archives

Identity elements

Reference code

US TxAM-C C000011

Level of description



Eldridge Cleaver Archives


  • 1959-1981 (Creation)


3.00 Boxes

Name of creator


Biographical history

Eldridge Cleaver, born in Wabbaseka, Arkansas on August 31, 1935, was a founding member of the Black Panther Party, remains a controversial figure within the Black Power Movement of the 1960s-1970s. Cleaver was one of the leading spokesperson for the revolutionary organization. He traveled extensively, nationally and internationally, on behalf of the group as Minister of Information, including a long period of hiding in exile with his then wife, Kathleen Cleaver (married on December 27, 1967), to avoid a murder charge. He represents a powerful symbol, both negative and positive, within African American history.


  • Convicted of rape and assault in 1958, he is sent to San Quentin Prison, transferred to Folsom Prison in 1964, transferred to Soledad Prison in 1965, and released on parole in December of 1966.
  • In early 1967, Cleaver meets Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, founders of the Black Panther Party (BPP). Cleaver becomes Minister of Information.
  • On December 27, 1967 Eldridge Cleaver and Kathleen Cleaver are married.
  • In 1968, Soul on Ice is released.
  • In April 1968, Cleaver is involved in a gun shoot-out with police in Oakland California. He flees the United States in November before his scheduled hearing.
  • From 1968 to 1970, Cleaver travels to Cuba, USSR, North Korea, Vietnam, China, and Algiers. In September of 1970, he establishes the International Office for the BPP in Algiers.
  • On February 26, 1971, Cleaver splits with Huey Newton and the BPP.
  • In late 1972, Cleaver relocates to Paris.
  • After eight years of living abroad, Cleaver returns to the United States and surrenders to the FBI in 1975, telling Reader's Digest that he'd "rather be in jail in America than free anywhere else." He makes a deal and by pleading guilty to assault charges, the attempted murder charges are dropped. He is sentenced to 1,200 hours of community service in 1980.
  • During the 1980s to the end of his life, Cleaver is involved in many endeavors: he starts his own clothing line, joins the Mormon Church, establishes a recycling business, attends Harvard Law School, becomes a recovering drug addict, and has many unsuccessful runs for political office.
  • In 1985, Eldridge Cleaver and Kathleen Cleaver divorce.
  • On May 2, 1998, Eldridge Cleaver dies in Pomona, California.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

Eldridge Cleaver, a founding member of the Black Panther Party, was also an author, Black power activist, who in his later life became a patriot and Mormon.

The Eldridge Cleaver Archives contains over 1000 individual items of his writings and letters from his prison stints from 1959 to 1966 after he published his seminal work, “Soul on Ice;” BPP writings, his exile in Cuba, Algiers, Paris and other writings; newspapers and other publications. The collection contains rare and unique items from founding members and insider within one of the most notorious and progressive organizations this country has ever witnessed.

There is extensive correspondence from his wife Kathleen that includes correspondence written by and to her, writings to and correspondence from journalists, activists, and from friends.

System of arrangement

This collection is arranged into the following series:

  • Series 01, Cleaver's Prison Years. 1959; 1964-1966
  • Series 02, Black Panther Party, Writings as Minister of Information. 1967-1971
  • Series 03, Shootout in Oakland/Vacaville Prison. 1968
  • Series 04, Peace and Freedom Party: Candidacy for President. 1968
  • Series 05, Cleaver's Exile in Cuba. 1968-1974
  • Series 06, International Section of the Black Panther Party. 1966-1971
  • Series 07, Cleaver's Exile in Algiers. 1969-1972
  • Series 08, Cleaver in Paris. 1970-1975
  • Series 09, Cleaver's Legal Issues & Other Activities. 1975-1977
  • Series 10, Eldridge Cleaver Crusade. 1977
  • Series 11, Eldridge Cleaver Unlimited Clothing Line. Undated
  • Series 13, Cleaver Materials Related to Published Books. 1968-1971
  • Series 14, Book of Lives Unpublished Manuscript, and Short Stories. Undated
  • Series 14, Other Black Panther Material. 1967-1981
  • Series 15, Cleaver - Brochure. Undated
  • Series 16, Cleaver - Various Papers. 1971-1981

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Languages of the material

  • English

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Archivist's note

© Copyright 2019 Cushing Library. All rights reserved.

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