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Kathleen Cleaver
Kathleen Cleaver Kathleen Cleaver


To many, Kathleen Cleaver is best known for marriage to Black Panther leader and Soul on Ice author Eldridge Cleaver Since the couple's divorce in 1987, however, she has staked out a reputation all her own as a law professor and expert in African-American history By transforming herself from expatriate revolutionary to respected scholar, Cleaver has brought her unique perspective on critical issues of race, gender and class to a wider audience than was previously possible, while maintaining her commitment to social and economic justice Kathleen Neal was born on May 13, 1945 in Dallas, Texas, the oldest child of Ernest and Juette (Johnson) Neal Unlike many of her future fellow revolutionaries, she did not grow up in poverty Her father was a professor of sociology at Wiley College, and her mother held an advanced degree in mathematics Soon after Cleaver was born, her father accepted a job at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, where he served as director of the Rural Life Council, teaching sociology and planning community development projects Cleaver was raised in a somewhat-sheltered, segregated, middle-class black community After six years at Tuskegee, Ernest Neal joined the Foreign Service, and the Neal family spent the next several years in such exotic locations as India, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the Philippines Cleaver would be forever changed by her childhood experiences abroad in countries populated mainly by people of color.

Cleaver returned, minus her parents, stateside as a teen to attend high school She graduated in 1963 from the George School, a Quaker boarding school located near Philadelphia Cleaver then enrolled in Ohio's Oberlin College, eventually transferring to Barnard College By this time her interest in activism was greater than her interest in coursework In 1966 she dropped out of college to concentrate on her involvement in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), taking a job in that organization's New York office The following January, Cleaver was transferred to SNCC's Atlanta office to serve as secretary of the Committee's Campus Program One of her tasks for the program was to organize a black student conference to take place that spring at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee It was at this conference that she met Black Panther Party (BPP) Minister of Information Eldridge Cleaver, who had recently been released from Folsom State Prison The BPP Minister's fiery rhetoric and the Panther's more radical approach to issues of race and class appealed to Cleaver Apparently, Eldridge Cleaver appealed to her as an individual as well.

The pair married on December 27, 1967, over the objections of her parents "It was a meeting of the spirit," she told People Weekly "I was becoming a revolutionary and I was impressed by his statesmanlike quality" Cleaver left SNCC and joined her husband in San Francisco to go to work for the Black Panthers In an organization dominated by men, Cleaver became the first woman included in the Party's central committee, its highest decision-making body As communications secretary, her role was to write and make speeches nationwide and serve as media spokesperson She was one of the chief organizers of the campaign to free jailed Panther Minister of Defense Huey Newton in 1968 She also undertook a campaign of her own that year, running unsuccessfully for California State Assembly on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket 1968 was also the year in which tensions between San Francisco police and the Black Panthers escalated into frequent violent conflict In January, police raided the Cleavers' apartment on the basis of an alleged tip about a weapons cache they were said to be housing.

On April 6th, Eldridge Cleaver was injured in a shoot-out with police that also left one Panther dead and two officers wounded Charged with violating parole in the aftermath of the incident, Eldridge fled the country, spending seven months in Cuba before crossing the ocean and settling in Algeria in 1969 Pregnant with their first child, Kathleen Cleaver joined her husband in Algeria in July of that year, where she soon gave birth to their first child, Maceo, named after the Cuban general Antonio Maceo The Cleavers' second child, daughter Jojuyounghi (Joju), was born in North Korea the following year Meanwhile, the Cleavers had made Algeria the base of their newly founded international wing of the Black Panther Party In 1971 a spat between Eldridge Cleaver and Huey Newton resulted in the Cleavers' international branch's expulsion from the Party Following the split, the Cleavers and their allies formed a new organization, the Revolutionary People's Communication Network, with Kathleen Cleaver again functioning as the public face of the group in its contacts with the press and the public During their exile, the Cleavers gradually began to sour on the Marxist philosophy they had promoted as Panthers Unable to remain in Algeria, they resettled in Paris in 1973 By this time, the fugitive Eldridge Cleaver had set in motion the process that would enable his eventual return to the United States.

In 1975 the Cleavers moved back to America, where Eldridge turned himself in to authorities and set about arranging a plea agreement that emphasized community service The next few years were spent in California tying up the loose ends of his legal entanglements During this period, Eldridge underwent a political transformation that saw him become increasingly conservative He also became very religious, first as a Christian and then later as an adherent to the Mormon faith In 1981 Kathleen moved, along with both children, across country to go back to college She enrolled at Yale, graduating with honors in 1983 with a bachelor's degree in history The Cleavers divorced in 1987 Two years later, Kathleen graduated from Yale Law School, after which she joined the prestigious New York law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore In 1991 she moved to Philadelphia to clerk for Judge A Leon Higginbotham in the U.

S Court of Appeals for the Third District She took her first academic job a year later, joining the law faculty of Emory University in Atlanta While at Emory, Cleaver served on the Georgia Supreme Court Commission on Racial and Ethnic Bias in the Courts During the second half of the 1990s she took on several short-term appointments She was a visiting professor at Benjamin N Cardozo School of Law in New York in 1997 In 1998 she received a Wallenberg fellowship in Human Rights at the Center for Historical Analysis at Rutgers University, and was also a visiting faculty member in Yale University's History Department and African American Studies Program She was the Joanne Woodward Professor of Public Policy at Sarah Lawrence College during 1999, and that year she was also a fellow at the Center for Scholars and Writers of the New York Public Library, where she worked toward the completion of her yet-to-be-published memoir, Memories of Love and War The projects continued to come along in rapid succession in the early part of the 21st century.

In January of 2001 Cleaver hosted "The Heritage: The Panther Perspective" on the BET Movies cable channel She also served as executive producer of the International Black Panther Film Festival in Harlem that year, and was employed as a Senior Research Associate at Yale Law School This combination of establishment and antiestablishment activities would have been unthinkable thirty years earlier, when Cleaver's career focused on radicalism Although some of Cleaver's politics and methods may have changed over the years, she has remained a steadfast defender of civil rights.

Kathleen Cleaver Interview | American Black Journal
Stephen Henderson interviews Kathleen Cleaver, Emory University Professor of Law and former Communications Secretary of the Black Panther Party. Cleaver discusses the start of the Black Panther...
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RBG-Why We Wear Our Hair Like This 1968, Kathleen Cleaver of the BPP Breaks It Down
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Kathleen Cleaver speaking at UCLA 10/22/1971
From the archives of the UCLA Communications Studies Department. Digitized 2013. The views and ideas expressed in these videos are not necessarily shared by the University of California, or...
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Kathleen Cleaver: There needs to be another generation of Black Panthers.
Executive Producer Eddie Conway interviews Former Black Panther Kathleen Cleaver about political organizing and international solidarity. Visit for more videos.
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Noam Chomsky & Kathleen Cleaver on Race, Gender and Class Issues - Black Panthers (1997)
Kathleen Neal Cleaver (May 13, 1945) is an American professor of law, known for her involvement with the Black Panther Party. More:
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Civil Rights History Project: Kathleen Cleaver
Kathleen Cleaver oral history interview for the Civil Rights History Project conducted by Joseph Mosnier in Atlanta, Georgia, 2011-09-16.
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Bobby Seale and Kathleen Cleaver Press Conference on Murder of Bobby Hutton (1968)
News report from April 1968 featuring scenes from a press conference by Oakland-based Black Panther Party members Bobby Seale and Kathleen Cleaver, who are commenting on the killing of Bobby...
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Black Panther Woman Speak on Feminism
At its beginnings, the Black Panther Party reclaimed black masculinity and traditional gender roles. A notice in the first issue of The Black Panther, the Panthers' newspaper, applauded the...
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These Women Were the Unsung Heroes of the Black Panther Party
Elaine Browne? Kathleen Cleaver? You might not recognize these names right away, but you will once you learn these women's great contribution to the Black Panther Party. The hottest celebrity...
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Danny Glover & Kathleen Cleaver on Black Power Mixtape, Rare Footage Capturing Movements Rise - Based on the film with the same name, the extraordinary new book "The Black Power Mixtape" chronicles the black freedom movement in the United States using found...
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Eldridge Cleaver, Black Panther (1970 Documentary)
Leroy Eldridge Cleaver (August 31, 1935 – May 1, 1998) was an American writer and political activist who became an early leader of the Black Panther Party. His 1968 book Soul On Ice is a...
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A Conversation with Kathleen Cleaver | American Black Journal Full Episode
Air date: 2/21/16.
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Kathleen Cleaver, former Black Panther - The Fifth Estate
Kathleen Cleaver, the Black Pather Party's communications secretary, was married to leader Eldridge Cleaver. Today, Kathleen Cleaver is a law professor and a grandmother. She says movements...
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Kathleen Cleaver talks briefly of bombings against The Black Panther Party
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Bobby Seale and Kathleen Cleaver Press Conference on Murder of Bobby Hutton 1968
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Noam Chomsky on Race, Gender and Class with Kathleen Cleaver (1997)
Noam Chomsky and Kathleen Cleaver talked about race, gender and class issues that confront the United States today. They recalled their activism in the 1960s and offered advice on what should...
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Kathleen Cleaver: State Repression of the Black Panthers
PLEASE VISIT: Program #CLEK001. Recorded in Amherst, MA on November 06, 2006.
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BLACK PANTHERS #talkingwith Kathleen Cleaver
As part of our fight for change series we interview Kathleen Cleaver, former member of the Black Panthers.
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Kathleen Cleaver dos Panteras Negras e a importância de valorizar a beleza negra
"TOMBAMENTO OLD SCHOOL - por Kathleen Cleaver Lembra dos Panteras Negras, aquela galera negra radical cuja militância envolvia, inclusive, pegar em armas? Então, além de lutar contra o...
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Former Black Panther Party Member Kathleen Cleaver [10/24/16] Speaks at Merritt College
October 24 Kathleen Cleaver speaks at Merritt College.
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