Project Description

Kathleen Neal Cleaver

Kathleen Neal Cleaver has spent her life participating in the human rights struggle. She started alongside her parents in the 1950’s civil rights protests in Alabama. By 1966, Kathleen Neal dropped out of Barnard College in New York to join the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) where she served in its Campus Program based in Atlanta. She then moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and from 1067 to 1971, she was the first Communications Secretary of the Black Panther Party. After sharing years of exile, in Algeria and France with former husband Eldridge Cleaver, she returned with her family to the United States in late 1975.

In 1984, Cleaver graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in History from Yale College and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. After receiving a J.D. from Yale Law school in 1989, Cleaver became an associate at the law firm Cravath, Swaine and Moore, and later clerked for the late Judge A. Leon Higginbotham of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia.

Cleaver has received fellowships from Radcliffe College’s Bunting Institute, the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute of Harvard University, the Center for Historical Analysis at Rutgers University, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the Center for Scholars and writers of the New York Public Library and Alphonse Fletcher Sr. Fellowship from Harvard University to complete Memories of Love and War, a memoir still in progress.

She is now being featured in the master documentarian Stanley Nelson’s directed film, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution. It’s the first feature length documentary to explore the Black Panther Party, its significance to the broader American culture, its cultural and political awakening for black people, and the painful lessons wrought when a movement derails. It goes straight to the source, weaving a treasure trove of rare archival footage with the voices of the people who were there: police, FBI informants, journalists, white supporters and detractors, and Black Panthers who remained loyal to the party and those who left it.