Kathleen Neal Cleaver

Kathleen Neal Cleaver

Kathleen Neal Cleaver
Born Kathleen Neal
(1945-05-13) May 13, 1945
Memphis, Texas

Kathleen Neal Cleaver (born May 13, 1945) is an American professor of law, known for her involvement with the Black Panther Party.


  • Early life 1
  • The Black Panther Party 2
  • Living in exile 3
  • Later life 4
  • References 5
    • Other references 5.1
  • External links 6

Early life

Kathleen Cleaver, née, Kathleen Neal was born in Oberlin College, and later transferred to Barnard College. In 1966, she left college for a secretarial job with the New York office of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

The Black Panther Party

She was in charge of organizing a student conference at Huey Newton, who was jailed. Kathleen Neal Cleaver was among a small group of women that were prominent in the Black Panther Party, which included Elaine Brown and Ericka Huggins.[1] In 1968 (the same year her husband ran for president on the Peace and Freedom ticket) she ran for California's 18th state assembly district, also as a candidate of the Peace and Freedom party. Cleaver received 2,778 votes[2] for 4.7% of the total vote, finishing third in a four-candidate race.[3] As a result of their involvement with the Black Panther Party, the Cleavers were often the target of police investigations. The Cleavers’ apartment was raided in 1968 before a Panther rally by the San Francisco Tactical Squad on the suspicion of hiding guns and ammunition. Later that year, Eldridge Cleaver staged a deliberate ambush of Oakland police officers during which two police officers were injured. Cleaver was wounded and fellow Black Panther member Bobby Hutton was killed in a shootout following the initial exchange of gunfire.[4] Charged with attempted murder, he jumped bail to flee to Cuba and later went to Algeria.

Living in exile

Eldridge spent seven months in Paris in 1973. Kathleen left for the United States later that year to arrange Eldridge’s return and raise a defense fund. In 1974, the French government granted legal residency to the Cleavers, and the family was finally reunited. After only a year, the Cleavers moved back to the United States, and Eldridge was sent to prison. He was tried for the shoot-out in 1968 and was found guilty of assault. He was sentenced to five years' probation and 2,000 hours of community service. Kathleen went to work on the Eldridge Cleaver Defense Fund and he was freed on bail in 1976. Eldridge’s legal situation was not finally resolved until 1980.

Later life

Kathleen Cleaver went back to school in 1981, receiving a full scholarship from Yale University. She graduated in 1983, summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history. In 1987, she divorced Eldridge Cleaver. She then continued her education by getting her law degree from Yale Law School. After graduating, she worked for the law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, and followed this with numerous jobs including: law clerk in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia, the faculty of Emory University in Atlanta, visiting faculty member at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City, the Graduate School of Yale University and Sarah Lawrence College.

In 2005, Cleaver was selected an inaugural Fletcher Foundation Fellow. She then worked as a Senior Research Associate at the Yale Law School, and a Senior Lecturer in the African American Studies department at Yale University. She is currently serving as senior lecturer at Emory University School of Law.[5]


  1. ^ Clark Hine, Darlene; Thompson, Kathleen (1998). A shining Thread of Hope (first ed.). New York, NY: Broadway Books. p. 298.  
  2. ^ "Kathleen N. Cleaver". JoinCalifornia. 1945-05-13. Retrieved 2010-08-27. 
  3. ^ "11-07-1968 Election". JoinCalifornia. 1968-11-07. Retrieved 2010-08-27. 
  4. ^ Kate Coleman, 1980, "Souled Out: Eldridge Cleaver Admits He Ambushed Those Cops". New West Magazine.
  5. ^ "Faculty profiles: Kathleen N. Cleaver, Senior Lecturer in Law", Emory Law.

Other references

  • Spartacus Educational bio
  • African American Registry: Kathleen Cleaver remains very active!

External links

  • Video: Kathleen Cleaver oral history interview conducted by Joseph Mosnier in Atlanta, Georgia, 2011-09-16