The Exiles: Kathleen Cleaver Interview

The Exiles: Kathleen Cleaver Interview


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



“Marriage for us,” she averred, “is a 20th century Afro-American anachronism, especially

for the revolutionary movement, since the way people should live their lives in the

revolutionary movement conflicts with the institution of marriage: irregular hours,

impatience with the day-to-day ‘woman’s work’, shackled to a role of subservience.

You’re a subordinate, you are secondary,” she declared.



Books by Kathleen Cleaver


Liberation, Imagination, and the Black Panther Party  / Target Zero



The Exiles

An Interview of Kathleen Cleaver

By Madeline Murphy


The rooster crow in Algiers at five in the morning is more like a wail than the familiar “cock-a-doodle-doo.” It reflects the eerie sound Arab women emit by pressing and wiggling their tongues against the roof of their mouths in spontaneous exclamations of joy, or grief, or anguish. I awoke on the first day of September at 5 a.m. in Algiers, not so much because of my sensitivity to the sound of the unfamiliar cock crow, not because of the brightness in the room (the sun rises abruptly at 5:30), for I am a sound sleeper, but because the breath-taking tropical smells from the hotel garden forcefully invaded my subconscious.

Our fourth floor balcony overlooked the lush palms, gnarled eucalyptus and ancient olive trees of the international garden of Hotel St. George, which boasted plants and flowers representing all nations. I could see oversized split leaf philodendrons, their green stamen-like flowers blooming sensuously, huge yucca plants, their white bell-like blossoms reaching to the sky, and towering cacti of all varieties.

In the distance the Mediterranean’s gray-mottled indolence was soon to give way to changing, glittering blue /green jewel tones—from dark to light, from pastel to true color. On the horizon, the fire-ball sun rose quickly in full view shocking the sea into a dazzling brightness of its own reflection and turning the cool dawn into the heat of a mid-summer’s day. The added excitement of the purpose of my trip could neither be brushed aside not wasted in one moment of tourist weakness—the urge to sleep and be lazy.

Despite the fatigue of the trip to Algiers, the exotic sights, scents, and sounds were unrelenting in their fascination and in their hypnotic attraction. I had come to Algiers especially to interview Kathleen Cleaver. It had been difficult for me to find her, yet I finally had a lead: 9 Rue du Traite, El Biar section. My husband and I had planned this trip carefully. He was returning to the place of his army service in World War II. I came to explore the mysteries and complexities of the exiled Black Panther community.

Yet, when we had registered for our room the day before, we had been tersely informed by a hostile concierge that our reservations were good for only one night. In a strange land unable to speak fluent French, the isolation of being a tourist was frightening. The indifferent attitude of the concierge reaffirmed not only the typical foreign resentment that here were the usual opulent, arrogant American tourists, but also the cool diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Algeria. The U.S. maintains a consulate and not an embassy in Algeria. Algeria’s President, Colonel Houari Boumedienne, intent upon developing Algeria into an independent, solvent, socialist country has continued to gain government control of natural resources and seeks to trade with other nations where his country can obtain the most benefits.

Thus, Algeria is more aligned with countries of the Soviet bloc: Mainland China, North Vietnam, Arab Socialist Union, and the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Algeria is the “Mecca” and asylum for liberation groups and exiles from countries such as the United States. President Boumedienne was elected president of the OAU when Algeria played host to its fifth summit conference in 1968, and the first Pan-African Cultural Festival was held in Algeria the following year.

The fact that on the surface we were Afro-Americans required closer scrutiny as to our political stance. Algerians are wise in the game of U.S. deception. Indeed, this was not the best climate to seek two additional days lodging or to make my mission easier—finding 9 Rue du Traite. To complicate our position, the Algerian International Trade Fair was in progress, causing hotel accommodations throughout the city to be overcrowded. There are few hotels in Algeria, and with the language barrier, it seemed unlikely that we would be able to fend for ourselves.

Adding insult to injury, the hotel had had no running water during the past four days and the electricity only worked sporadically. We freshened up with “tote towels” as best we could and decided to get something to eat and to worry about our plight on a full stomach. Our isolation became more apparent as we sat in the hotel terrace dining room, for we were surrounded by the counterpoint of murmurs, the strange language of the trade fair visitors from Europe, Mainland China, the USSR, and Africa.

As we scanned the clusters of talking, gesticulating diners, we recognized a “Soul Brother.” There he was seated in the corner. Our eyes met, first without recognition, then a quick “double-take”—Stokely Carmichael. Mutual joy. Beckoning to him and with broad grins, we invited him to join us, whereupon he crossed the terrace with long strides, obviously happy to greet “home folks.” (I later learned during this short visit, that exiles, expatriates, have a longing, a nostalgia for Americans, not so much for the country, but mostly for the ease of communication with Afro-Americans, for news of home, a need to be current, a real “What’s happenin’ man?” communication.) Thus began an encounter that relieved our fears of estrangement, hostility, and helplessness. It reversed this uncertain, three-day sojourn. This chance meeting turned out to be the most interesting, rewarding visit of a lifetime.

*   *   *

Stokely quickly took us in hand. He was on a brief holiday and business trip from his adopted country, Guinea. His wife, Miriam Makeba, was fulfilling a concert engagement in Denmark. He was waiting for her return so that they could take their first real vacation since their marriage two years before. Stokely speaks fairly good French and is loved by the liberated Algerians. A quick request from him to the concierge and, voila, our reservations were extended (for as long as we wanted to stay). Pails of water were delivered to our room, the dining room was open to us any hour of the day or night . . . only the electrical problem was beyond his control.

    photo right: Miriam Makeba and Stokely Carmichael 1968 

A few phone calls and Kathleen Cleaver’s whereabouts were confirmed. In spite of the fact that the former friendly relationship between the Cleavers and Stokely had been severed, true to his creed, he made no vicious statements, had no recriminations, and did everything possible to help me locate them. Stokely was, however, a bit nostalgic for old time’s sake, since Kathleen and he had worked closely together during the early days of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)

By noon of the next day, a mini-taxi was careening us up the winding hills of Algiers, swerving through marketplaces, tree-lined streets of the embassies, skirting the old city and its Kasbah. We reached a small park—Place Kennedy—and upon inquiring directions three or four times, we finally found a back street lined with small stones, which led to yet a narrower street. There, facing a neglected vacant and hilly lot, was the Black Panther Party International headquarters. The rather attractive two-story white adobe-type building with brass plaques on both sides of the wrought-iron gated entrance proclaimed in both English and Arabic that this was indeed the International Black Panther Party headquarters. The building, given by the Algerian government, was walled in by a four-foot natural stone wall. Wrought-iron grilling was interspersed proportionally along its fifty-foot frontage. Arab children played, ran, and yelled along the sidewalk.

Across the street a man was sitting sideways, feet on the ground in the open front door of a car, leisurely eating his lunch. (He was there three hours later. Who knows whether he was watching me, the Panthers, or just unemployed?) After knocking, ringing, and calling, I was admitted by a young man into the patio of the building. The gate entered into the patio and to the left of it was a cement staircase leading onto a narrow balcony that fronted the house. The young man led us up these stairs and to the front door.

The first floor housed a general purpose room. To the left of a long hallway on the other side was a dark empty room and further down the corridor on the right were the kitchen and dining area. On the left, a very steep, narrow concrete stairway led to the second floor. At the rear of the house was the bathroom. Another entrance to the second floor could be gained from an outside curved stairway, which afforded access to a balcony and entrance into well-appointed office. I was ushered into the 9 x 12 all-purpose room of the headquarters, and a little after noon Kathleen, with her two-year old son Maceo, entered.

Because of all the rampant rumors about Eldridge and Kathleen, the split between Eldridge and Huey P. Newton, it was with apprehension that I began the interview. I feared there would be hostility and wariness—a guarded atmosphere. Quite the opposite was true. As the interview unfolded with Kathleen, there seemed to be a need for her to talk, to unburden herself, to set the record straight. Each time I would suggest that I was taking up precious time, she would say she had 15 more minutes to the interview, and I wound up with two and a half hours.

The constant blaring of the stereo with rock and jazz music, only indigenous to the States, seemed to be the security blanket wiping out alien language and customs—a link with what Kathleen termed, “the day-to-day involvement of the struggle—everyone misses the States.” She began to talk. Maceo, leaning against his mother’s knee, drowsed and drooped and nodded. It was time for his nap. Kathleen picked him up, took him into the dark bare adjoining room across the hall, and laid him unceremoniously on a blanket on the floor and closed the door.

While she was gone, I became acutely aware of my concern as a wife and mother of five about how exiled children managed. How does a revolutionary mother feel about rearing her children, especially in exile? How does she manage about food, clothing, shelter, and money? What are her problems as a wife and activist in the International Black Panther Party (IBPP)? As if she were reading my mind, and to forestall any intrusion upon her relationship with Eldridge, Kathleen quickly volunteered: “As to my marriage, in terms specifically, it’s no one’s business. I don’t ask others about their personal lives.”

But, as to the institution of marriage, she dubbed it, “A brutalizing institution as far as women are concerned.” “Marriage for us,” she averred, “is a 20th century Afro-American anachronism, especially for the revolutionary movement, since the way people should live their lives in the revolutionary movement conflicts with the institution of marriage: irregular hours, impatience with the day-to-day ‘woman’s work’, shackled to a role of subservience. You’re a subordinate, you are secondary,” she declared.

“It is known,” Kathleen continued, “that engagement in the revolutionary struggle is very difficult for women. Therefore, it becomes more difficult to be a wife, mother, and worker, and to decided at any given moment which has priority.”

*   *   *

I could see in her loss of weight, that gaunt look, the nervous chain-smoking, that these difficulties were taking their toll on Kathleen Cleaver. She is the only one in the exiled community who speaks French. Therefore, she acts as interpreter, troubleshooter, writer, chauffer, and manager for the eight Panther families and seven children who comprise the exiled community.

When I asked about the specifics of money, Kathleen replied, “We are debt-ridden. Our telephone bill from February to April was $5,000 and from April to June was $3,000. We can’t pay these bills. We rent four houses and the rent is overdue. All the funds are eaten up for seven kids, eight families, clothing, hospital, doctor bills and food. You can imagine what it costs.”

She explained, “Most funds came out of Eldridge’s royalties. When he was declare a citizen of North Korea, Mainland China, and Vietnam, the U.S. Treasury applied the Trading with the Enemy Act to his royalties—the funds go into a block account. He received an advance for a book to be written, but with conditions not conducive to just getting around to writing, the company took back the money.”

The U.S. has been very deceitful. We went to these countries with delegations, all of whom were different, but none of them had the Trading with the Enemy Act declare against them. . . . There is a tax lien on his money when he left the U.S., December 1968, until after May 1969. The U.S. uses its power to freeze us out. . . .We don’t get any reports on royalties accumulated from the sale of Soul on Ice and the other book, Eldridge Cleaver. They’re all part of the power structure—publishers—you can see what they’re doing: “You’re not getting any of that money, niggah!” Because they know what we are using it for.

Even though the stress and strain of those role changes can surely be brutalizing, Kathleen spoke in a pleasant, deep voice, with strength, resoluteness and discipline. Her direct, unflinching, gaze indicated more than anything else that Kathleen was staying with it. In speaking of her children, she was resigned to the fact that they will not be like ordinary children. Yet, though she knew this fact had to be, Kathleen exhibited ambivalence about her role as activist and mother, she seemed to want her children to be ordinary children.

Yet she pridefully stated that her daughter, Joju, born a year ago in North Korea, and Maceo, are really not allowed to be children, for as she says, “This is not the atmosphere that pampers them, though they are welcome and related to the work, they are viewed as revolutionaries and are motivated with a view toward a revolutionary war.” To bring home the point and to dispel any illusions, she reiterated, her cold gray eyes flashing, “Children here are looked upon as fighters—oriented toward becoming revolutionaries.” Kathleen’s intensity and belief in what she is doing can be attributed, in part to her unusual childhood. She was living outside the U.S. with her parents during childhood and adolescence. She was engaged in revolutionary work before marriage and had, as she admitted, “no intention of getting married.”

Marriage to Eldridge Cleaver has not prevented me from taking the course I took. It is difficult with two kids: it’s hard to continue the work—in exile—being physically separated is a painful situation. In the case of exile, it is a form of imprisonment. You leave to avoid going to prison to continue to function, to struggle, but this makes it more difficult to communicate on a mass level.

In reminiscing about her early life, Kathleen revealed, “I grew up in a peculiar way in college towns. Mother and father were either students or teachers at the University of Michigan, the University of North Carolina, Bishop College, Tuskegee. Father worked in a community development program in India with the State Department. From age 9 through 16, I was living in Asia and Africa—Sierra Leone—from boarding schools to college. I took one year at Oberlin College. Then I quit college and started working. College to me was abstract, unrelated to the way people lived their lives. Separated from it by having lived abroad, I felt college programmed me into an abstract, artificial state of mind. My parents wanted me to have an education to live a better life. They struggled for it. I had definite ideas. College does not correspond to this educational process.”

Yet I went back to Barnard College. I received a worthless education, especially because it was a woman’s college. Education should allow me to think. American education is a program. It doesn’t stimulate. It only presents you with information which doesn’t allow you to think and it stifles creativity. American education is a factory system. Take Liberal Arts—you come out with a degree, and can’t get a job, which is a ruling class device to play at education on a mass basis with no use for it. Black and white schools separated are a rotten thing, also. I do recall doing my last high school years in Baltimore. I had relatives there. I had come to D.C. when my brother was brought home. He was ill with leukemia and subsequently died. I was so anxious to go to high school in the U.S. My mother wanted to study music, so she took time to go to Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, while I went to Edmondson High School.

Mother’s dream was to become an opera singer. She was a soprano. You see, she had finished college at 16, started to teach to support her four brothers and sisters, and she never had time before to fulfill her dream. I never particularly like Baltimore. It was the first time I lived in a city—usually we lived in college towns which were small. I had never seen row houses before or ever lived in a ghetto. Though I miss the States, I sort of am accustomed to being outside. I have been in Algeria since May 1969, and it isn’t as hard for me. But everyone misses the States.

Though nostalgically repeating herself, Kathleen added, “Yet here, you see a broader scope and how we are part of the international picture.” Warming to the subject of the international picture, Kathleen developed the subject of imperialism by saying,

As the U.S. becomes more involved in its own internal war, it will cease its imperialism, interfering with struggle and ideas by superimposing the U.S. ideals. The U.S. infiltrates, uses sabotage, doesn’t relate to peoples’ rights to decide what their own lives should be. They support armies, air forces, businesses, to further the aims of the U.S., forcing their economic, social, and political ideas on Southeast Asia, Africa, South America, Israel, South Africa. They have two spearheads directed at Africa in maintaining, through a base in South Africa, bootlickers, to mess with all peoples in South Africa, Black Africa. They use blatant exploitation, yet offer no technology, no education, no medical care. All that wealth and no help for the people. All that wealth being developed and exported to Europe.

“For example,” she continued, “you can’t fly from East Africa to West Africa. The U.S. and European control direction and air routes. Phone calls to Nigeria from Algeria must go through England, mainly to benefit Europe. Europe and the U.S. join hands to exploit Africa. When I went to Mali on the way to the Congo, in the main city I saw the central marketplace where there were artisans making shoes, handbags, but the physical condition of the people was horrible. They are poor and tired. There is no happy, healthy, bustling atmosphere. It reminded me of scenes of black Afro-Americans in slavery. There is no excuse for this with advanced technology: no reason for the people to suffer as a colony of France. You can’t find anything resembling these conditions in France.”

Maceo’s environment, his whole way of looking at the world is technological. An African child has no concept of this. The level of resources in the U.S. is more advanced. Yet the brothers and sisters of Mozambique, Angola, and South Africa, with so few exceptions are waging war. They know they are waging war. They really have got nothing to fight with. When you see this in comparison to the U.S., the struggle of black people in the U.S. should be moving at a more rapid pace.

When I asked Kathleen how this struggle could be accelerated, she rattled off the following as if by saying it faster, liberation would come about: “Especially at this time, the element erupting is the intensity of the liberation struggle. More and more explosions, black convicts inside the penitentiaries being killed for radicalizing prisoners. George Jackson is the best example. [In 1972, racial tensions combined with frustrations of imprisonment produced many prison uprisings. In August 1971, George Jackson, best known of three black convicts, The Soledad Brothers, was shot and killed as he tried to escape from San Quentin Prison, California, author of Soledad Brother.] There have been prisoners with less political understanding than he, less following, who have been murdered.”

The black populace is in a condition of mass imprisonment. We must break out. We must educate the institutional army, the young blacks recruited, forced to serve, to be sent overseas. Black soldiers in West Germany are moving toward a revolutionary struggle and we are counseling them. This is true of black soldiers all over the world. We want to see the people in the black and white community in a very intense struggle in prisons, in the army, the schools, and in general to take a positive and helpful attitude toward the struggle—not the typical condemnation: to run and tell and sabotage the situations of prisoners and political prisoners caught in court and going to jail.

We must relate in our area in aiding the prisoners railroaded into courts, use it as a test to see how much people will take. We will see hundreds and thousands of Jonathan Jacksons [brother of George Jackson]. We must relate to prisoners as an example of the most extreme form of oppression. We must develop a very high degree of national consciousness and unity. The prisoners have a great need for money for legal defense, reading material to keep them from being destroyed by isolation. This is the transition phase—the need for mass support, mass action, money raising to develop more and more political orientation of the masses.

The ideological split in the Black Panther Party prevents us from having communication. We are reorganizing to develop a communication / information network through the Revolutionary Peoples Communication Network and in a New York paper called Right On. We shall continue to publish our bulletin.

Kathleen stressed, “We, the people, are sympathetic to the revolutionary struggle. Every black person in whatever position she or he was in Babylon (U.S.) must make a contribution with money and work and action.”

Since we had been discussing ideology, black political prisoners, black women revolutionaries, it was only natural to ask about Angela Davis and the Communist Party. Kathleen vehemently scorned the Communist Party and characterized its manipulation, as she called it, in this way:

The Communist Party in France and Italy carry the revisionist line to obscure, to hide anything to do with Jonathan Jackson, to serve their interest. The Communist party in the U.S. has done nothing. It can can’t do anything for black people in the U.S. It is using and exploiting black people to further the aims and objectives that have nothing to do with blacks. Angela Davis is being used as a ploy of the Communist Party and is being used voluntarily to convince people there is some hope in the U.S. judicial process. They don’t even say she is black.

Their fighting on a class basis carries no real condemnation of the real revolutionary violence, for there is nothing in their rhetoric which supports Jonathan Jackson and Ruchell Magee. If only Angela Davis would share the attention with the revolutionaries who engage in violence. Not doing so is part of the deception. I am not attacking Angela Davis, just the manipulation being made of her by the Communist party. You see, people are intimidated by the Panther causes of death, blood, and violence. The case of Angela Davis will be able to prove that the state is wrong and that the Communist party supports her in order for them to achieve a higher mass base of support.

Considering her middle-class background and life, my natural curiosity about Kathleen’s involvement in the Black panther prompted this candid response:

I started working in the Civil Rights Movement with SNCC in New York until December 1966, then I went to Atlanta to national headquarters to work from January 1967 to July 1967. I then went to California for a vacation and to see Eldridge Cleaver. I found the Black Panthers to be more advanced than SNCC. SNCC in the South was pretty much exhausted. There was a need for an organizational cadre to work in urban areas. They couldn’t get it together in the Northern cities. The movement with Eldridge dissipated all my earlier apprehensions.

I was impressed with what the Black Panther Party was doing. It was fantastic. I fell in love with the movement, with Eldridge and the San Francisco Bay area. I felt this would be an opportunity for the most positive contribution I could make at that time.

*   *   *

To be there in Algiers, in the fading light, in the darkened room, making it harder to see the frail young woman whom I had interviewed for more than two hours, not much older than my eldest daughter, a young woman whose kindness and steely resolve had dissipated all my earlier apprehensions, I wondered how Kathleen expected liberation to be accomplished for Afro-Americans. Having worked for five years through the changing modes of civil rights, through the splits and schisms, from demonstrations to political imprisonment, and ultimately self-imposed exile, Kathleen answered my thoughts in this way:

“We want to let the Afro-Americans know that the revolutionary struggle is still going on, that the IBPP needs some indication from them. We want to hear from them. We want them to know they are a part of the world struggle. We want to know ‘Why aren’t you fighting more?’ The hardest thing to do is take some land. You can, however, interfere with the functioning of the apparatus. We see it as a highly mobile struggle. There is yet a vague possibility for holding areas. We see the struggle as highly political, therefore, we must apply force and violence with the strategy of guerillas, guerilla warfare, using small groups with specific tasks.”

*   *   *

Subsequent to this interview, Kathleen Cleaver has interrupted her exile to return to the U.S. for what the white press characterizes as a “nationwide speaking tour in support of what she said was the urban guerilla struggle.” Perhaps her interview with me was just a warm-up for a trip to the U.S. already planned in September. She had even then intended to return to Babylon to experience again “the day-to-day involvement with the struggle . . . to communicate on a mass level.” A little more than a month after Kathleen returned to the United States, she did indeed communicate the position of the International section of the Black panther Party in regard to the Afro-American national question.

In her appearance before the People’s Center Council, New Orleans November 25, 1971, she reaffirmed the International Black Panther Party’s adherence to Point 10 of the Black Panther  Party Program and Platform to seek a United nation’s-supervised plebiscite. Kathleen stated, “We must require the people of the world to recognize the truth of our history, our existence as an oppressed people—a nation trapped and held in bondage inside another nation—our right to be secure in our human rights, and the political nature of the imprisonment of thousands of Afro-Americans held within the confines of the political and military concentration camp prisons of the United States of America.”

Concluding that the United Nations is “one of the most important instruments available to us as people at the present stage of our struggle,” Kathleen Cleaver called the present stage of our struggle,” Kathleen Cleaver called for: “A United Nations-supervised plebiscite to be held for the purpose of determining the will of the Afro-American people as to our national destiny.

“Also,” she adds, “the stationing of the United Nations observer teams throughout the United states to help halt and check the stepped-up slaughter, political imprisonment and persecution of our people by a racist government and the ruling class of the United States.”

Meanwhile, Kathleen suggests that, “An Afro-American People’s Militia be organized immediately, with units wherever Afro-American people are found, for the purpose of securing our people against genocidal attacks.” And she concludes, “That an Afro-American liberation army be organized immediately, openly when we can, clandestinely when we must, to guarantee the implementation of this proposal, and to eliminate obstacles and enemies both within and without our ranks.” Not long after this speech, in Volume One of the IBPP Bulletin, dateline January 22, 1972, Algeria, “Information, Revolutionary Peoples Communication Network,” news of Eldridge Cleaver’s resignation was announced:

On January 15, 1972, Eldridge Cleaver, founder and head of the International Section, resigned in order to concentrate full-time on his work as a member of the Afro-American Liberation Army.

Prefacing the statement of Eldridge’s resignation, the reasons for the formation of the Revolutionary People’s Communication Network were reiterated: “to replace the former Ministry of Information of the Black Panther Party: to provide a new structure for dissemination of information and mass organization in keeping with the new conditions of struggle; and to structurally and organizationally separate the above-ground and underground apparatus of the revolutionary forces fighting inside the United States.”

Announcing that Pete O’Neal, founder of the Kansas City Missouri branch, would head the International Section of the Black Panther Party, assurances were given that “the International Section will continue the work that it has been doing in the past and plans to greatly expand upon it.”

It would seem that Eldridge and Kathleen Cleaver, disassociating themselves from the static confinement of Algeria, will work on U.S. soil as well as abroad to carry the message that a Black Liberation Army is the most feasible way that black people can gain solidarity and self-determination.

In the madness of racism in the 1970s, one wonders if this is a movement toward self-determination, or rather counter-productive movement toward self-destruction. Only history will record the solution to this depressing dilemma of black liberation.

May 16 and May 27, 1972

Source: Madeline Murphy Speaks (1988), pp. 163-180

*   *   *   *   *

Madeline Wheeler Murphy [1922-2007], a passionate community activist, civil rights champion and popular panelist on the WJZ-TV show Square Off, died of a heart attack Sunday at her Roland Park Place residence. She was 84. Mrs. Murphy was active in city politics and ran for City Council three times, twice in the 1960s and again in 1983, the same year that her son, William H. Murphy Jr., made an unsuccessful bid to unseat then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer in the Democratic primary.

Mrs. Murphy often appeared as a guest on local television and radio shows, most notably Square Off, where she aired her progressive views and seemed to relish clashing with conservative panelists. She was also a columnist for the Afro American newspaper for more than two decades and later published her columns in a book. Mrs. Murphy’s husband, District Judge William H. Murphy Sr., died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 2003. The couple were long-time residents of Cherry Hill until they moved to Roland Park Place in recent years. . . .  Born in Boston and raised in Wilmington, Del., Mrs. Murphy graduated from Howard High School, where she was valedictorian.  

photo right: William Murphy, Sr.

She had attended Temple University in Philadelphia for two years when she met her husband at a dance at a nearby university. She married at the age of 19 in 1942. The couple lived in Delaware and Chicago briefly, before moving to the Baltimore area in 1945.  They lived in Turners Station for about a year before moving to Cherry Hill, where they eventually bought a house and raised five children, becoming longtime residents and well-known activists. When the Cherry Hill community fought off an incinerator and liquor stores in the neighborhood, Mrs. Murphy was on the front lines.

When she was president of a lawyers’ wives association, she led a group to the Circuit Courthouse to conduct an inspection to prove it was segregated. And when there were allegations that voting irregularities prevented thousands of black city voters from casting ballots, she was part on a group urging the state’s attorney to investigate. . . . Mrs. Murphy worked as director of community services for Cherry Hill Community Presbyterian Church from 1959 to 1969 and served on the first poverty board of the Community Action Commission. She also taught at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa.

She was a member of myriad community organizations and received numerous awards, including induction into the Baltimore City Women’s Hall of Fame. . . . In one of her most recent published works, a 1997 article in The Sun’s Perspective section, Mrs. Murphy wrote of tracing her family tree to Philip Henry Livingston, the grandson of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, who had a child with his Jamaican slave. In the article, she reflected on a reunion with Livingston family members that she attended, comparing her life to that of the slave she was descended from. . . .

Mrs. Murphy pursued her flair for art later in life, earning a certificate in fine arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1980. At Roland Park Place, Mrs. Murphy painted, and some of her work was on exhibition and even sold, said her daughter, the former director of Washington national office of the American Civil Liberties Union. . . . Mrs. Murphy is also survived by another son, Houston W. Murphy of Alexandria, Va., a computer engineer; another daughter, Madeline Murphy Rabb, a curator and former executive director of the Chicago Office of Fine Arts, Department of Cultural Affairs; and a sister, Mary Ann Wheeler Franklin of Baltimore.—

Maryland State Archives

*   *   *   *   *

Long live the spirit of Jonathan Jackson—By Stephen Millies—Aug 8, 2010—Jonathan Jackson was only 17 years old when he gave his life for oppressed people on Aug. 7, 1970, when he went to the San Rafael, Calif., courthouse to free his older brother George Jackson, along with Fleeta Drumgo and John Clutchette — the “Soledad Brothers

These three revolutionary inmates were charged with killing Soledad prison guard John Mills. Just before Mills was thrown over a third floor railing, a grand jury exonerated fellow officer O.G. Miller for shooting to death Black inmates Cleveland Edwards, Alvin Miller and W.L. Nolen on Jan. 13, 1970. African-American witnesses weren’t allowed to testify at the whitewash hearing.

While no evidence linked the Soledad Brothers to the killing of Mills, California Governor and future U.S. President Ronald Reagan wanted to kill them in the state’s gas chamber because they were revolutionaries. George Jackson was internationally known for “Soledad Brother,” a book-length collection of his letters from prison. “I met Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Engels and Mao when I entered prison and they redeemed me,” he wrote. . . .

photo left: Jonathan Jackson, James McClain

One year after his younger brother sacrificed his life, George Jackson was assassinated by prison guards on Aug. 21, 1971. George Jackson’s murder sparked the Attica prison rebellion in which 29 prisoners were slaughtered by billionaire New York Gov., Nelson Rockefeller.—Workers

*   *   *   *   *

International Solidarity, Pan-Africanism, and the Black Panther Party

By Curtis Austin


The Black Panther Party chapter in Algiers, Algeria, existed from 1969 to 1973. While the history of this chapter of the Black Panther has received very little scholarly attention, the international section of the BPP served an important role in the development of the BPP. Primarily, it connected the struggle of the black Americans with other liberation struggles throughout the world. The history and dynamics of the BPP in Algeria sheds light on the difficulties that come with living in exile, while they also provide a glimpse of a unique relationship between a liberated African nation and a quasi-diplomatic organization representing black people in the United States.

The primary role of the International Section was to communicate to other governments the needs of the BPP and the progress of the movement inside the United States. Kathleen Cleaver wrote that the villa became the “embassy of the American Revolution, receiving visitors from all over the world,” and sharing news about “revolutionary developments within the United States.” The Panthers believed a revolution was taking place in the United States and that they were the official representatives for that movement. As confrontations between the Panthers and the police continued, “the international staff of the Black Panther Party increased as more fugitives seeking to avoid arrest or imprisonment fled to Algiers.” These fugitives and their activities eventually cause so much conflict with the Algerian government that the section eventually had to be abandoned.

When Pete O’Neal took over the international section after Eldridge Cleaver departed, he was burdened with a group of Panthers and miscellaneous radicals who were growing tired and frustrated with being away from their families, friends, and the action of the frontlines.

                                                                            Pete O’Neal speaking Kansas City 1969       

While several of the members were anxious to return to the U.S., other black revolutionaries continued to arrive in Algeria, hoping to join up with the International Section. They eventually found that they had to go to other parts of Africa to find refuge. When it came time for Kansas City Panthers Pete and Charlotte O’Neal to leave Algeria, Charlotte convinced Pete that they should first visit comrades in Tanzania.  She recalled trying to encourage his ideas while at the same time suggesting that before he goes back, he first take a detour to Tanzania where Bill and Jimmy Whitfield, also former Kansas City Panthers, had taken up residence. In September, 1972, the O’Neals left Algeria for Tanzania, a place that Malcolm X had toured on his second trip to Africa in 1964. . . . .—

It’s About Time                                   

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A Nation within a Nation

Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) and Black Power Politics

By Komozi Woodard

Woodard examines the role of poet Amiri Baraka’s “cultural politics” on Black Power and black nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s. After a brief overview of the evolution of black nationalism since slavery, he focuses on activities in Northeastern urban centers (Baraka’s milieus were Newark, N.J., and, to a lesser extent, New York City). Taking issue with scholars who see cultural nationalism as self-destructive, Woodard finds it “fundamental to the endurance of the Black Revolt from the 1960s into the 1970s.” The 1965 assassination of Malcolm X catalyzed LeRoi Jones’s metamorphosis into Amiri Baraka and his later “ideological enchantment” with Castro’s revolution. After attracting national attention following the 1966 Detroit Black Arts Convention, Baraka shifted his emphasis to electoral politics. He galvanized black support for Kenneth Gibson, who was elected mayor of Newark in 1970. Woodard pays scant attention, however, to the fact that “Baraka’s models for political organization had nothing revolutionary to contribute in terms of women’s leadership” or the roots of “Baraka’s insistence on psychological separation” from whites.

Woodard’s conclusion descends into rhetoric as he urges support for a school system to “develop oppressed groups into self-conscious agents of their own liberation,” while offering no specific, practical suggestions. Woodard’s need to be both scholar and prophet are in conflict, and the prophet’s voice undermines the scholar’s.—Publishers Weekly

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Stokely Speaks; Black Power Back to Pan-Africanism

By Stokely Carmichael

Stokely Standiford Churchill Carmichael—(June 29, 1941 – November 15, 1998), also known as Kwame Ture, was a Trinidadian-American black activist active in the 1960s American Civil Rights Movement. He rose to prominence first as a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, pronounced “Snick”) and later as the “Honorary Prime Minister” of the Black Panther Party. Initially an integrationist, Carmichael later became affiliated with black nationalist and Pan-Africanist movements. He popularized the term “Black Power.” In 1965, working as an SNCC activist in Lowndes County, Alabama, Carmichael helped to increase the number of registered black voters from 70 to 2,60 — 300 more than the number of registered white voters.

Black residents and voters organized and widely supported the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, a party that had the black panther as its mascot, over the white dominated local Democratic Party, whose mascot was a white rooster. Although black residents and voters outnumber whites in Lowndes, they lost the county wide election of 1965. Carmichael became chairman of SNCC later in 1966, taking over from John Lewis. A few weeks after Carmichael took office, James Meredith was attacked with a shotgun during his solitary “March Against Fear”. Carmichael joined Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Floyd McKissick, Cleveland Sellers, and others to continue Meredith’s march. He was arrested once again during the march and, upon his release, he gave his first “Black Power” speech, using the phrase to urge black pride and socio-economic independence:

“It is a call for black people in this country to unite, to recognize their heritage, to build a sense of community. It is a call for black people to define their own goals, to lead their own organizations.”  

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Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas —The Black Panther Party for Self Defense, formed in the aftermath of the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965, remains one of the most controversial movements of the 20th-century. Founded by the charismatic Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, the party sounded a defiant cry for an end to the institutionalized subjugation of African Americans. The Black Panther newspaper was founded to articulate the party’s message and artist Emory Douglas became the paper’s art director and later the party’s Minister of Culture.

Douglas’s artistic talents and experience proved a powerful combination: his striking collages of photographs and his own drawings combined to create some of the era’s most iconic images, like that of Newton with his signature beret and large gun set against a background of a blood-red star, which could be found blanketing neighborhoods during the 12 years the paper existed. This landmark book brings together a remarkable lineup of party insiders who detail the crafting of the party’s visual identity. —Publisher Rizzoli

Douglas was the Norman Rockwell of the ghetto, concentrating on the poor and oppressed. Departing from the WPA/social realist style of portraying poor people, which can be perceived as voyeuristic and patronizing, Douglas’s energetic drawings showed respect and action. He maintained poor people’s dignity while graphically illustrating harsh situations.—Wikipedia

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Liberation, Imagination, and the Black Panther Party

A New Look at the Panthers and Their Legacy

By Kathleen Cleaver and George Katsiasficas’s

If this volume of essays only offered us documentation and insight into the contributions and wide-ranging influence of the Black Panther Party, it would have immense historical significance. But Kathleen Cleaver’s and George Katsiasficas’s collection does much more. It creates intriguing and provocative conversations among scholars, activists, contemporary political prisoners and original members of the BPP that invite us to extricate ourselves from the numbing nostalgia that often accompanies invocations of black berets and leather jackets.

It invites us to re-imagine our relationship to this past and to think critically about the meaning of liberation today.—Angela Y. Davis, Professor, History of Consciousness, UC Santa Cruz

The history of the Black Panther Party is an indispensable part of the dramatic account of black struggle in this country, and this book is an important contribution to that history. The essayists have impressive credentials as either members of the Party or keen observers of its activities, and because they carry the story into the present day the book becomes especially valuable.—Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States.

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The Shadows of Youth

The Remarkable Journey of the Civil Rights Generation

By Andrew B. Lewis

With deep admiration and rigorous scholarship, historian Lewis (Gonna Sit at the Welcome Table) revisits the ragtag band of young men and women who formed the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Impatient with what they considered the overly cautious and accommodating pace of the NAACP and Martin Luther King Jr., the black college students and their white allies, inspired by Gandhi’s principles of nonviolence and moral integrity, risked their lives to challenge a deeply entrenched system. Fanning out over the Jim Crow South, SNCC organized sit-ins, voter registration drives, Freedom Schools and protest marches. Despite early successes, the movement disintegrated in the late 1960s, succeeded by the militant Black Power movement. The highly readable history follows the later careers of the principal leaders. Some, like Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown, became bitter and disillusioned.

Others, including Marion Barry, Julian Bond and John Lewis, tempered their idealism and moved from protest to politics, assuming positions of leadership within the very institutions they had challenged. According to the author, No organization contributed more to the civil rights movement than SNCC, and with his eloquent book, he offers a deserved tribute.—Publishers Weekly

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Michelle Alexander: US Prisons, The New Jim Crow  / Judge Mathis Weighs in on the execution of Troy Davis

The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness 

By Michelle Alexander

The mass incarceration of people of color through the War on Drugs is a big part of the reason that a black child born today is less likely to be raised by both parents than a black child born during slavery. The absence of black fathers from families across America is not simply a function of laziness, immaturity, or too much time watching Sports Center. Hundreds of thousands of black men have disappeared into prisons and jails, locked away for drug crimes that are largely ignored when committed by whites. Most people seem to imagine that the drug war—which has swept millions of poor people of color behind bars—has been aimed at rooting out drug kingpins or violent drug offenders. Nothing could be further from the truth. This war has been focused overwhelmingly on low-level drug offenses, like marijuana possession—the very crimes that happen with equal frequency in middle class white communities.

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A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story

By Elaine Brown

Brown here relates the dramatic story of her youth, her political awakening and her role in the Black Panther Party when she succeeded her lover Huey Newton to become the group’s first female leader. Though smoothly written, the book contains much reconstructed dialogue that may daunt readers. Brown’s memoir takes her from a Philadelphia ghetto to California, from college to cocktail waitressing, from wanting to be white to joining the black power movement. She meets Eldridge Cleaver, George Jackson and Bobby Seale, goes to jail, visits North Korea and North Vietnam, debates Marxism and gets involved in Oakland, Calif., politics. When other Black Panthers seemed to lose sight of the revolution and seek power for its own sake, Brown, with a growing feminist consciousness, left the group.

She now lives in France and expresses ambivalent feelings about the party she once loved. Having made her acquaintance, the reader wonders about her present life.—Publishers Weekly

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Panther Baby

A Life of Rebellion and Reinvention

By Jamal Joseph

In the 1960s he exhorted students at Columbia University to burn their college to the ground. Today he’s chair of their School of the Arts film division. Jamal Joseph’s personal odyssey—from the streets of Harlem to Riker’s Island and Leavenworth to the halls of Columbia—is as gripping as it is inspiring. Eddie Joseph was a high school honor student, slated to graduate early and begin college. But this was the late 1960s in Bronx’s black ghetto, and fifteen-year-old Eddie was introduced to the tenets of the Black Panther Party, which was just gaining a national foothold. By sixteen, his devotion to the cause landed him in prison on the infamous Rikers Island—charged with conspiracy as one of the Panther 21 in one of the most emblematic criminal cases of the sixties. When exonerated, Eddie—now called Jamal—became the youngest spokesperson and leader of the Panthers’ New York chapter.

He joined the “revolutionary underground,” later landing back in prison. Sentenced to more than twelve years in Leavenworth, he earned three degrees there and found a new calling. He is now chair of Columbia University’s School of the Arts film division.

*   *   *   *   *

Revolutionary Suicide

By Huey P. Newton, Ho Che Anderson (Illustrator), Fredrika Newton (Introduction)

Eloquently tracing the birth of a revolutionary, Huey P. Newton’s famous and oft-quoted autobiography is as much a manifesto as a portrait of the inner circle of America’s Black Panther Party. From Newton’s impoverished childhood on the streets of Oakland to his adolescence and struggles with the system, from his role in the Black Panthers to his solitary confinement in the Alameda County Jail, Revolutionary Suicide is smart, unrepentant, and thought-provoking in its portrayal of inspired radicalism.

Huey P. Newton (1942-1989) was an activist and inspirational leader of the Black Panther Party. Fredrika Newton joined the Black Panther Party as a youth member in 1969 and married Huey P. Newton in 1984. She established the Huey P. Newton Foundation, a non-profit educational organization, in 1993. Ho Che Anderson was born in London in 1969 and named after the Vietnamese and Cuban revolutionaries Ho Chi Minh and Che Guevara. He is primarily known for his comic books King, I Want to Be Your Dog, Wise Son, and Scream Queen.

*   *   *   *   *

The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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posted 2 August 2011




Home    Civil Rights: Struggle for Black Power  DuBois Malcolm King Forum     Black Baltimore Table   Baltimore Index Page   Amin Sharif Table

Related files:  Roy Wilkins and Spiro Agnew in Annapolis   Spiro Agnew Speaks to Black Baltimore, 1968    Reverend Marion Bascom’s Civil Righting  

Clarence Logan and the Northwood Movement  Commentary on “Color Line and War”       Editorials on Lynching    Walter White Biography   

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