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 collection of Cleaver's prison writings, and became a bestseller.
Cleaver went on to become a prominent member of the Black Panthers, having the title Minister of Information.
On April 6, 1968, Cleaver was involved in a shootout with police that left a fellow Black Panther dead. At first jailed, he was soon released on bail. However, Cleaver was later told he would have to return to custody.
Rather than go back to prison, Cleaver fled to Cuba. During his time as a fugitive, he visited North Korea, North Vietnam, the Soviet Union, and China. Cleaver also travelled to Algeria, where he set up an international office for the Black Panthers before being kicked out of the group in 1971.
Cleaver next moved to France. He had a religious experience there before returning to the United States in 1975. He then proclaimed himself a born-again Christian, decried the socialist systems he had seen and wrote that "the American political system is the freest and most democratic in the world". Cleaver's charges from the shoot-out in 1968 were eventually reduced to assault and he was sentenced to community service.
When Cleaver returned to the US he became involved in various religious groups (Unification Church and CARP) before finally becoming a Mormon and joining the LDS Church, as well as becoming a conservative Republican, appearing at Republican events.
Cleaver died in Pomona, California in 1998, at the age of 62.
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