Birss Lecture Series to Present "Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice & the Black Panthers"

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Cleaver’s book “Soul on Ice,” his former wife, Kathleen Cleaver, will present the keynote lecture on March 8

Kathleen Cleaver
Public Affairs Staff

BRISTOL, R.I. ­­– Kathleen Cleaver, who was married to author and activist Eldridge Cleaver, will present the John Howard Birss Jr. Memorial Lecture at Roger Williams University, marking the 50th anniversary of her husband’s collection of essays, “Soul on Ice.”

Cleaver will speak at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 8, in the Mary Tefft White Cultural Center at the University Library, on the Bristol campus. The event is free and open to the public.

Each year, the Birss Committee selects a book that has had a big cultural impact to engage the campus and local community through discussions, celebrations and the annual lecture. This year, the committee chose “Soul on Ice” because of “its long-standing contribution to the discussion of race in America.”

Eldridge Cleaver, a leader of the Black Panther Party, wrote the collection of essays while in prison, and it was published in 1968.

“Fifty years later, due to Cleaver’s sometimes contentious opinions and divisive perspective, 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 Birss Committee said. “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.”

Kathleen 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, she had dropped out of Barnard College in New York to join the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, where she served in its Campus Program, based in Atlanta. She moved to San Francisco and from 1967 to 1971 was the first communications secretary of the Black Panther Party. After sharing years in exile with her husband in Algeria and France, she returned to the United States with her family in 1975. She later received bachelor’s and law degrees from Yale University. She is a senior lecturer and research fellow at the Emory University School of Law.