The John Howard Birss, Jr. Memorial Program
Through the "Professor John Howard Birss, Jr. Memorial Lecture Fund" and "Professor John Howard Birss, Jr. Memorial Library Fund" (established by University alumnus, Robert Blais '70), a significant or culturally impactful book is chosen annually to be honored. The program engages the campus and local community through discussions, celebrations, related collections, a library exhibition, and culminates with the annual Birss Lecture.
2018 Selection - Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver
On the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Soul on Ice, we selected this book because of its longstanding contribution to the discussion of race in America. Written by former Black Panther Party leader Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice was a shout of anger in turbulent times, seen as a simmering indictment of racism and oppression in America. Fifty years later, due to Cleaver’s sometimes contentious opinions and divisive perspectives, it is a book that continues to spark controversy—both in reaction to the times and events surrounding the book’s original publication, and by seeing it within the context of the times in which we live. The committee’s hope is that Soul on Ice will be read as more than a period piece, but instead as a book whose fierce and controversial perspectives will spark conversations and inquiries into our nation’s past, present, and future. – The Birss Committee, 2017
To research Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice, Kathleen Cleaver and more, please see the library research guide.
To see selected images/letters from the exhibition please see the exhibition gallery.
March 8, 2018
Mary Tefft White Cultural Center, University Library
Kathleen Neal Cleaver has spent her life participating in the human rights struggle. She started alongside her parents in the 1950s 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 1967 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 of 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. In 1992 Cleaver joined the faculty of Emory University Law School.
Schedule of Events
February 1, 2018 - Exhibition Opening - Mary Tefft White Cultural Center (4:30 PM)
A celebration of the library exhibition “Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice, & the Black Panthers”
Open during library hours through March 31, 2018
February 28, 2018 - Reading Group - Rogers Free Library, Bristol (3:00PM & 7:00 PM)
Community-wide discussions of the book hosted by Bristol’s public library.
March 8, 2018 - Keynote Lecture featuring Kathleen Cleaver - Mary Tefft White Cultural Center (4:30 PM)