A civil rights activist and author, Eldridge Cleaver was born in Wabbaseka, Arkansas. Cleaver spent most of his childhood in Los Angeles, California where he was in and out of reform schools for his involvement in petty crimes. Eldridge's unruly conduct continued into adulthood and eventually led to his conviction and imprisonment for assault with intent to commit murder at the age of 22.
During his time in prison, Cleaver read published works by intellectuals such as Thomas Paine, Voltaire, Karl Marx, and Richard Wright. He was also influenced by the teachings of Malcolm X. These scholars encouraged Cleaver to write his memoir while serving his sentence in Folsom Prison. Two years after his release, the collection of essays he wrote in prison were developed into the book Soul on Ice in 1968.
In 1966, Cleaver joined the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP) and a year later married fellow member Kathleen Cleaver. As a member of the BPP in Oakland, California, he served as the first Minister of Information. Being a prominent member of the Black Panther Party allowed Soul on Ice to gain popularity among those interested in the BPP and provided Eldridge with international notoriety. He utilized his fame and success to run on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket during the 1968 U.S. presidential election. That same year, Cleaver was involved in a shootout between the Oakland police and BPP members. He was severely wounded during the violent incident and charged with attempted murder. In fear of his safety and freedom, Cleaver fled from the United States and lived in exile in Mexico, Algeria, Cuba and France. Upon his return to the U.S. in 1975, Cleaver denounced the Black Panther Party and the attempted murder charges from 1968 were dropped.
By 1986, Cleaver's political views had drastically changed as he made an unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination for a Senate seat in California. This would be his final attempt to be involved in politics. Cleaver died at the age of 62 in Los Angeles.
The Black Power records at the National Archives pertaining to Eldridge Cleaver include audio recordings of radio interviews, FBI surveillance of him in the United States, Cuba and Algeria and files from President Gerald Ford and his administration.
|Records Relating to Eldridge Cleaver|
|RG 59 - Department of State||RG 65 - Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)|
|RG 263 - Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)||RG 306 - US Information Agency (USIA)|
|GRF-0019 - Philip W. Buchen Files||GRF-0204 - Ron Nessen Papers|
|GRF-0273 - Presidential Name Files (Ford)||HICK - John R. Hickman Audio Collection|
|Digitized document Regarding Cleaver's return to the United States||Rediscovering Black History: Black Panther: a News Reel Video|
Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-1979 National Archives Identifier 654098
The electronic records in this series can be searched online via the Access to Archival Databases (AAD) system. The telegrams on AAD include only unclassified, unrestricted files which have been determined to be of permanent historical value. Please search for 'Eldridge Cleaver'.
Records Relating to Algeria, 1963-1973 National Archives Identifier 618404
|[CONSULAR] PS- Protective Services: PS 7- Eldridge Cleaver & Black Panthers, 1970 ( NAID 2656980)|
|[CONSULAR] PS- Protective Services: PS 7- Eldridge Cleaver & Black Panthers, 1971 ( NAID 2656981)|
|[CONSULAR] PS- Protective Services: PS 7- Eldridge Cleaver & Black Panthers, 1972 ( NAID 2656982)|
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Motion Picture Films and Video Recordings, ca. 1936- ca. 1985 National Archives Identifier: 12073
Audio Recordings of Monitored Broadcasts from Havana and Port-Au-Prince, 1968-1973 National Archives Identifier 104633
|Havana International Service in English. Interview with U.S. Black Panther Party Member Eldridge Cleaver ( NAID 104649)|
Audio Recordings of Monitored Broadcasts from Vietnam, Korea, and China, 1968-1969 National Archives Identifier: 103958
|Hanoi Domestic Service to Vietnam in English. Speeches by Eldridge Cleaver and Phil Lawson at Aug 22 1970 Hanoi Rally ( NAID 104054)|
|Hanoi Domestic Service to Vietnam in English. Eldridge Cleaver’s Comments on Visit to Spiro Agnew to Asia ( NAID 104059)|
|Hanoi Domestic Service to Vietnam in English. Eldridge Cleaver Talks to U.S. Servicemen. Part I ( NAID 104062)|
|Hanoi Domestic Service to Vietnam in English. Eldridge Cleaver Talks to U.S. Servicemen. Part II ( NAID 104063)|
Production Library Audio Recordings National Archives Identifier 118159
|Sixty Minutes with Eldridge Cleaver ( NAID 133370)|
Philip Buchen's General Subject Files, 1974-1977 National Archives Identifier: 574067
Finding Aid - Philip W. Buchen Files, 1974-77
|Justice - General|
Domestic Guidance for Press Briefings Files National Archives Identifier: 648724
Finding Aid - Ron Nessen Papers, 1974-77
Name Files, 1974-1977 National Archives Identifier: 654752
Finding Aid - National Security Advisor. Presidential Name File
|Cleaver, Eldridge ( NAID 1180565)|
Sound Recordings of Historical Radio Broadcasts, World War II Government Documentaries, and Popular Radio Shows, 1906-1993 National Archives Identifier 1487762
|Interview with Eldridge Cleaver ( NAID 2843264)|