This Day in Black History: Aug. 31, 1935

Political activist Eldridge Cleaver was born.

Posted: 08/31/2014 12:00 AM EDT

(Photo: Courtesy of The Library of Congress)

Eldridge Cleaver, who is recognized as a leader in the Black Panther Party, was born as Leroy Eldridge Cleaver on Aug. 31, 1935, in Wabbaseka, Arkansas.

In 1958, Cleaver was convicted of rape and spent eight years in prison where he became a follower of Malcolm X and wrote his prison memoir Soul on Ice. The memoir became one of the New York Times top 10 books of 1968.

After being freed in December 1966, Cleaver helped organize a cultural center called Black House, where he met Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, the co-founders of the Black Panther Party.

As tensions between the Black Panthers and the authorities boiled, Cleaver was caught up in a shootout in April 1968 in which he and two police officers were wounded. Cleaver evaded his $50,000 bail by fleeing into exile, first to Cuba and then to Algeria.

Cleaver severed ties with the Black Panthers in 1971. In 1977, he returned to the U.S. and surrendered to the FBI. His charges of attempted murder were dropped, and he was sentenced to 1,200 hours of community service instead.

Cleaver suffered from diabetes and prostate cancer and died on May 1, 1998.




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