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Revolution or Death: The Life of Eldridge Cleaver

Revolution or Death: The Life of Eldridge Cleaver

by Justin Gifford


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“An illuminating study of a complex, memorable historical figure.” Kirkus Reviews, starred review 

A remarkable biography that examines the notorious Black revolutionary meticulously within the context of his changing times 

Charismatic, brilliant, and courageous, Eldridge Cleaver built a base of power and influence that struck fear deep in the heart of White America. It was therefore shocking to many left-wing radicals when Cleaver turned his back on Black revolution, the Nation of Islam, and communism in 1975. 

How can we make sense of Cleaver's precipitous decline from a position as one of America's most vibrant Black writers and activists? And how do his contradictory identities as criminal, party leader, international diplomat, Christian conservative, and Republican politician reveal that he was more than just a traitor to the advancement of civil rights?  

Author Justin Gifford obtained exclusive access to declassified files from the French police, the American embassy, and the FBI, as well as Kathleen Cleaver’s archive, to answer these questions about a man far more compelling and complex than anyone has given him credit for.  

In a country defined by its extreme political positions on the right and left, Cleaver embodied both ideologies in pursuit of his conflicting ideals.  


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781613739112
Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 10/20/2020
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 705,406
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Justin Gifford is an associate professor of English literature at the University of Nevada, Reno, and the author of Street Poison: The Biography of Iceberg Slim and Pimping Fictions: African American Crime Literature and the Untold Story of Black Pulp Publishing.

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments vi

Prologue Escape (1968) 1

1 Slavery and the American South (1838-1944) 8

2 Phoenix and the West (1944-1945) 25

3 Los Angeles and the Great Migration (1945-1949) 32

4 Reform School (1950-1954) 42

5 Soledad Prison (1954-1957) 50

6 San Quentin Prison (1958-1963) 68

7 Folsom Prison (1963-1965) 92

8 California Men's Colony and Soledad Prison (1965-1966) 111

9 Oakland (1966-1968) 127

10 Rebellion (1968) 156

11 Cuba (1968-1969) 174

12 Algeria (1969-1970) 183

13 The International Section of the Black Panther Party (1970-1972) 208

14 Paris (1973-1975) 230

15 Born Again (1975-1981) 243

16 America (1981-1998) 268

Notes 291

Index 319

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