Soul on Ice /
Post-Prison Writings and
Speeches / Target
Zero; A Life in Writing /
Conversation with Eldridge Cleaver
Being Black /
Education and Revolution /
Eldridge Cleaver /
Eldridge Cleaver Is Free
* * *
By Eldridge Cleaver
A reassessment of
national black leadership has been in order since the
assassination of Malcolm X.
The assassination of Martin Luther King makes such a
reassessment inevitable. With
the death of King, an entire era of leadership with a distinct
style and philosophy, spanning some fifty years, draws to a
final and decisive close. A
new black leadership with its own distinct style and philosophy,
which has always been there, waiting in the wings and
consciously kept out of the limelight, will now come into its
own, to center stage. Nothing
can stop this leadership from taking over because it is based on
charisma, has the allegiance and support of the black masses, is
conscious of its self and its position, and is prepared to shoot
its way to power if the need arises.
It is futile and
suicidal for white America to greet this new leadership with a
political ostrich response.
What white America had better do is find out what these
leaders want for black people and then set out to discover the
quickest possible way to fulfill their demands. The alternative is war, pure and simple, and not just a race
war, which in itself would destroy this country, but a guerrilla
war which will amount to a second civil war, with thousands of
white new-John-Browns fighting on the side of the blacks,
plunging America into the depths of its most desperate
nightmare, on the way to realizing the American Dream.
When the NAACP was
founded in 1911, it vowed, in its preamble, that until black
people were invested with full political, economic and social
rights, it would never cease to assail the ears of white America
with its protests. Protest
as the new posture of blacks toward white America was on its way
in, and was destined to dominate the black struggle for the next
fifty years. On its
way out was the era of begging and supplication, rooted in
slavery and the plantation, personified in the genuflecting
leadership of Booker T. Washington; chief amongst its myriad
treasonous acts was giving black acquiescence to the Southern
racist policy of segregation, in Booker T.’s notorious
sell-out speech at the Atlanta Exposition
in 1896. In the
same historic breath, the U.S. Supreme Court made segregation
the law of the land when it approved the Separate But Equal
doctrine in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson.
Dissenting from this
confluence of racist ideology, black submission and judicial
certification, W.E.B. DuBois
led the protest that was institutionalized in the founding of
the NAACP; this held sway until 1954, when the U.S. Supreme
Court, recognizing that the racist ideology no longer had the
necessary allegiance of black leadership, reversed itself and
declared Separate But Equal, i.e. segregation, unconstitutional.
Black protest leadership, which was born to combat
segregation, did not know that when it heard, with universal
jubilation throughout its ranks, Chief Justice Earl Warren
pronounce the death penalty upon that institution, it was, in
fact, listening to its own death knell.
There was to be, however, a period of transition between
the new outmoded protest leadership and a new prevailing
leadership that had not yet defined itself.
leadership was supplied by Martin
Luther King and Malcolm X,
and Malcolm X, at his death, had laid the foundation of the new
leadership that would succeed both him and King.
Martin Luther King was a transitional figure, a curious mélange
of protest and revolutionary activism.
He embodied the first ideological strain in its fullest
flower; he contained only a smidgin of the latter.
He seemed to be saying to white America: If you don’t
listen to what I am saying, then you are going to have to deal
with what I am doing. As
far as the willingness of the white power structure to deal with
black leadership goes, Martin Luther King, and the type of
leadership he personified, held sway from the launching of the
Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1956 down to our own day, when the
vestigial remains of leadership from King’s transitional era
are still frantically trying to cling to power.
In reality their leadership is just as dead as that of
the lieutenants of Booker T. Washington at the end of their era.
between Martin Luther King and Malcolm X as transitional leaders
between the era of protest and our era of revolutionary
activism, is that King’s leadership was based on the black
bourgeoisie and Malcolm’s leadership was based on the black
masses. In the
vernacular of the ghetto, King had House Nigger Power and
Malcolm had Field Nigger Power.
What we have now entered, then, is an era in which Field
Nigger Power and the grievances and goals of the Field
Nigger—and the leadership of Field Niggers—will dominate the
black movement for justice in America.
Molotov Cocktails and Guns
Malcolm X used to tell
a little story that points up the difference in perspective and
perceived self-interest between the House Nigger and the Field
Nigger. The House
Nigger was close to the slavemaster. He ate better food, wore better clothes, and didn’t have to
work as hard as the Field Nigger.
He knew that he was better off than his brothers, the Field
Niggers, who were kept cooped up in the slave quarters, had only a
subsistence diet this side of garbage, and had to work hard
“from can’t see in the morning until can’t see at night.”
When the slavemaster’s house caught fire, the House
Nigger, even more upset and concerned than the slavemaster
himself, came running up to say: “Master, master our
house is on fire! What
shall we do?” On
the other hand, the Field Nigger, viewing the conflagration from
the distance of the slavequarters, hoped for a wind to come along
and fan the flames into an all-consuming inferno.
The kernel of truth
contained in that story has remained constant from the prison
plantations of slavery’s South to the prison ghettos of
oppression’s North, and the urban black, lacking the patience of
his forefathers who prayed for a high wind, has opted in favor of
the molotov cocktail.
Muslims were the first organization of any significance in our
history to understand and harness the volcanic passions of the
molotov cocktail-tosser. This organization, which was a transitional organization,
rooted in the black masses, based on a protest philosophy with a
pinch of revolutionary activism thrown in, made the major
contribution of redirecting the dialogue between black leadership
and the white power structure, changing it into a dialogue between
black leadership and the black masses.
This was a necessary by-product of the Muslims’ bid to
organize black people, because Elijah Muhammad
and Malcolm X, in order to get their points across, had to talk
over the heads of protest leaders to make themselves heard by the
Standing toe to
toe with the protest leaders, Malcolm and Elijah, talking over
their heads, exposed these leaders for what they were, and these
leaders, helping to prove the Muslims’ point by talking even
louder than before, were talking over Malcolm and Elijah’s
heads—but not to the black masses.
They were still chatting with Charlie, a note of
desperation having slipped into their tone to be sure.
But essentially, what they were saying to Charlie now was
that if Charlie didn’t listen to them, fund their picayune
programs, then he was going to be faced with Malcolm and Elijah.
in the wake of King’s death, chatting with Charlie has been
driven to the ludicrous, asinine length of Whitney Young pleading
to Henry Ford, Rockefeller and George
Meany to lead a white folk’s march on Washington to prove to
blacks that all white folks aren’t killers of the dream.
The only salutary result of this bankrupt, ridiculous
proposal, as far as the black masses are concerned, is that in
singling out these three sterling figures, Young brushed them with
his Judas kiss of death, identifying for the black masses three of
their most culpable oppressors in the spheres of Big Fat Industry,
Big Fat Finance and Big Fat Labor.
Maybe all whites aren’t killers of the dream, as Young
suggests, but his three pals are exploiters of oppressed people,
both home and abroad.)
black leaders stopped chatting with Charlie and started cutting it
up with the brothers on the block, a decisive juncture had been
reached, and blacks had seized control of their own destiny.
A full ideological debate ensued.
The consensus of this debate was given to the world on a
Mississippi dusty road, when young Stokely
Carmichael leaped from obscure anonymity and shouted, with a
roar of thunder, we want
black power! How
to get it was the question as far as the black people were
have been a lot of simple answers to this question, which is by no
means a simple one. Black
Power, whatever the form of its implementation, has to solve the
question of massive unemployment and underemployment, massive bad
housing, massive inferior education.
It must also deal with the massive problems of
institutionalized white racism manifested in subtle forms of
discrimination that results in blacks being denied equal access to
and use of existing public accommodations and services.
From access to medical facilities through the injustices
suffered by blacks in the courts, to the pervasive problem of
racist, repressive police practices, Black Power has to come up
the experience of other colonized people is relevant, then the
answers given by Huey P. Newton, leader of the Black Panther
Party, have to be dealt with.
The only real power that black people in America have,
argues Huey, is the power to destroy America.
We must organize this destructive potential, he goes on,
then we can say to the power structure that if black people
don’t get their political desires and needs satisfied, we will
inflict a political consequence upon the system.
is a rejection of the
Chamber of Commerce’s laissez faire myth of the market
place that argues to blacks that if they go out and hustle, get
themselves educated, learn skills (pull yourself up by your own
bootstraps, etc., etc., ad nauseam), the American Free
Enterprise System will do the rest, that if you don’t become
President, you are sure at least to make a million bucks.
In the age automation and cybernation, the marketplace has
been abolished by the computer. We must make a frontal attack upon the system as a whole,
need a redistribution of wealth in America.
The form of ownership of the means of production is no
longer functional. It
is time for the present, non-functional system to be abolished and
replaced by a functional, humanistic system that can guarantee a
good life for everybody. Everyman
is entitled to the best and highest standard of living that the
present-day level of technological development is capable of
working is entitled to a job.
a man is incapable of working because of a physical inability,
then society is responsible for taking care of him for as long as
the physical inability exists, for life if necessary.
If the businessmen who now control the economic system are
incapable of fulfilling the needs of society, then the economic
system must be taken out of their hands and rearranged; then the
people can appoint administrators to run the economy who can
deliver. This is the
eternal right of a free people.
viability of the Black
Panther Party’s approach to solving problems is testified to
by the fact that it has engineered two remarkable feats which
constitute the foundation for a revolutionary movement that
overlooks nothing, is afraid of nothing and is able to resolve the
major contradiction of our time.
On the one hand, the Black Panther Party cemented a working
coalition with the predominantly white Peace and Freedom Party.
On the other hand, it effected a merger with SNCC.
is the key center of the eye of the storm, because whether they
know it or not, whether they like it or not, neither white
radicals nor black radicals are going to get very far by
themselves, one without the other.
In order for a real change to be brought about in America,
we have to create machinery that is capable of moving in two
different directions at the same time, machinery the two wings of
which are capable of communicating with each other.
Black Panther Party, through its coalition with the Peace and
Freedom Party and its merger with SNCC, has been the vector of
communication between the most important vortexes of black and
white radicalism in America.
Any black leadership in our era with national ambitions has
to embody this functional flexibility without sacrificing its
integrity or its rock-bottom allegiance to the black masses.
Carmichael is Prime Minister of the Black Panther Party.
Rap Brown is its Minister of Justice.
James Foreman is its Minister of Foreign Affairs, and
George Ware is its Field Marshal.
At the same time, Huey Newton, Minister of Defense of the
Black Panther Party, is running for Congress on the Peace and
Freedom Party ticket.
Black Panther Party’s nomination for President of the United
States, running on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket, is Robert
F. Williams, the black leader in exile in the People’s Republic
of China. Williams
picked up the gun against white racism as far back as 1959.
If the Black Panther Party succeeds in getting the Peace
and Freedom Party to see the wisdom of picking Williams as its
Presidential candidate,* then a bid for the new national black
leadership will begin to come into sharper focus.
America will be astounded by this fact: not only will this
leadership bear a charismatic relationship to the black masses,
but it also will exercise charismatic leadership upon the white
masses as well, and it will reach down into the bowels of this
nation, amongst the poor, dispossessed and alienated, and it will
set aflame a revolutionary wave of change that give America a
birth of freedom that it has known hitherto only in the dreams of
its boldest dreamers. And
it will kill, once and for all, all the killers of the dream.
Cleaver, author of Soul On Ice (McGraw-Hill), wrote the
above article from a jail cell in California.*Since this was
written, the author has been selected for this office.
14 June 1968 /
The FBI exploitation of ideological differences between
Eldridge Cleaver and BPP Chairman Huey P. Newton eventually led to the
dissolution of the organization.
Cleaver’s acclaimed 1968 book
Soul on Ice—written while
serving a prison term for rape—was a searing statement about his life as a
black American. After his release from prison, he was indicted on charges
relating to a shoot- out with Oakland, California police. He fled the U.S. and
lived in exile for seven years in Algeria and France, where he was joined by his
wife Kathleen Neal Cleaver. Prof. Gates first met the Cleavers in Paris during
their exile there. He was then working as a stringer for TIME magazine. The
Cleavers were divorced in 1984. Eldridge Cleaver also wrote
Post-Prison Writings and
* * *
* * *
Life on Mars
By Tracy K. Smith
Tracy K. Smith, author of Life on Mars has been selected as the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. In its review of the book, Publishers Weekly noted the collection's "lyric brilliance" and "political impulses [that] never falter." A New York Times review stated, "Smith is quick to suggest that the important thing is not to discover whether or not we're alone in the universe; it's to accept—or at least endure—the universe's mystery. . . . Religion, science, art: we turn to them for answers, but the questions persist, especially in times of grief. Smith's pairing of the philosophically minded poems in the book’s first section with the long elegy for her father in the second is brilliant." Life on Mars follows Smith's 2007 collection, Duende, which won the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, the only award for poetry in the United States given to support a poet's second book, and the first Essence Literary Award for poetry, which recognizes the literary achievements of African Americans.
* * * * *
Better Day Coming: Blacks and Equality,
By Adam Fairclough
Better Day Coming is intended,
in author Adam Fairclough's words, as
"neither a textbook nor a survey, but an
interpretation" (p. xiv) of the
circuitous struggle for racial equality
pursued by African Americans and their
occasional allies between 1890 and 2000.
Chronologically organized, the narrative
moves from an evaluation of the
hard-pressed, contending forces vying
for ascendancy in the black South at the
nadir to the interwar period and well
beyond, into the urban cauldron of the
northern ghettoes at the high point of
the Black Power movement. Fairclough
brings to his project a fluent
understanding of the shifting
institutional configurations of
opposition to Jim Crow and a keen
sensitivity to the ways in which the
efforts of those who fought it were
hampered, circumscribed, and
occasionally crushed by the pressures of
operating in a society formally
committed—for most of the period under
discussion—to aggressive defense of the
racial status quo.
Fairclough's "basic argument" seems at first glance
uncontroversial: that "although blacks differed . .
. about the most appropriate tactics in the struggle
for equality, they were united in rejecting
allegations of racial inferiority and in aspiring to
a society where men and women would be judged on
merit rather than by race or color" (p. xii).
But his ultimate aim is more ambitious: he sets out
to rehabilitate the accommodationist tradition
represented by Booker T. Washington which, though
"apparently unheroic," in the author's view "laid
the groundwork for the militant confrontation of the
Civil Rights Movement" (p. xiii).—h-net
* * * * *
A Matter of Justice
Eisenhower and the Beginning of the
Civil Rights Revolution
By David. A. Nichols
David A. Nichols
us inside the Oval Office to look over
Ike's shoulder as he worked behind the
scenes, prior to Brown, to desegregate
the District of Columbia and complete
the desegregation of the armed forces.
We watch as Eisenhower, assisted by his
close collaborator, Attorney General
Herbert Brownell, Jr., sifted through
candidates for federal judgeships and
appointed five pro-civil rights justices
to the Supreme Court and progressive
judges to lower courts. We witness
Eisenhower crafting civil rights
legislation, deftly building a
congressional coalition that passed the
first civil rights act in eighty-two
years, and maneuvering to avoid a
showdown with Orval Faubus, the governor
of Arkansas, over desegregation of
Little Rock's Central High. Nichols
demonstrates that Eisenhower, though he
was a product of his time and its
backward racial attitudes, was actually
more progressive on civil rights in the
1950s than his predecessor, Harry
Truman, and his successors, John F.
Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. . . .
In fact, Eisenhower's actions laid the legal and
political groundwork for the more familiar
breakthroughs in civil rights achieved in the 1960s.
* * *
Hearts of Men
Radical Abolitionists and The
Transformation of Race
By John Stauffer
John Stauffer's new volume The
Black Hearts of Men introduces us to four
nineteenth-century civil rights activists who attempted to live
as if the future they needed had already come. And hence
Stauffer's study reminds us that the future of cross-racial and
cross-cultural alliances may depend upon remembering that such
alliances have had an honorable past, one that allowed
individuals to transcend such political constructs as race,
gender, class, age, or the other boundaries created by
societies. Stauffer's study, an intertwined biography of
four men--two white, two black--recounts, in its basic story
line, the events and experiences that led them to found a
political party based upon their Christian beliefs concerning
the necessity of bringing about a new future for American
slavery, race relations, and democracy. Convening a small
conference in Syracuse, New York, in the summer of 1855,
James McCune Smith,
Frederick Douglass, and
Radical Abolition Party,
which lasted five years, and polled
a few thousand votes in its various
political campaigns between 1855 and
* * * * *
Ancient, Ancient: Short Fiction
By Kiini Ibura Salaam
Ancient, Ancient collects the short fiction by Kiini Ibura Salaam, of which acclaimed author and critic Nalo Hopkinson writes, ''Salaam treats words like the seductive weapons they are. She wields them to weave fierce, gorgeous stories that stroke your sensibilities, challenge your preconceptions, and leave you breathless with their beauty.'' Indeed, Ms. Salaam's stories are so permeated with sensuality that in her introduction to
Ancient, Ancient, Nisi Shawl, author of the award-winning Filter House, writes, ''Sexuality-cum-sensuality is the experiential link between mind and matter, the vivid and eternal refutation of the alleged dichotomy between them. This understanding is the foundation of my 2004 pronouncement on the burgeoning sexuality implicit in sf's Afro-diasporization. It is the core of many African-based philosophies. And it is the throbbing, glistening heart of Kiini's body of work. This book is alive. Be not afraid.''
* * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * * *
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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
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update 15 June 2012