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Eldridge Cleaver

Activist / Writer

Born: 31 August 1935
Died: 1 May 1998 (heart attack)
Birthplace: Wabbaseka, Arkansas
Best known as: The Black Panther author of Soul on Ice

Name at birth: Leroy Eldridge Cleaver

Eldridge Cleaver helped found the militant group the Black Panthers in 1966 and became famously controversial as the group's outspoken Minister of Information. His 1968 book Soul On Ice, based on essays he had written in prison years earlier, cemented Cleaver's reputation as a spokesman for Black Power. The same year he was wounded in a Panther shootout with Oakland police; Cleaver jumped bail, fled to Algeria and lived in exile there and in Paris. He returned to America in 1975. Paradoxically, in later years Cleaver renounced his former radical views, became a born-again Christian, embraced conservative political causes and even ran for political office as a Republican. He also suffered well-publicized struggles with drug addiction in the years before his death in 1998.

Extra credit: Cleaver described his religious and political conversions in a 1978 book, Soul on Fire.

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