Kathleen Cleaver

American activist

Kathleen Neal Cleaver (born May 13, 1945) is an American professor of law, known for her involvement with the Black Power Movement and the Black Panther Party.

The form of assistance that women give in political movements to men is just as crucial as the leadership that men give to those movements.
Kathleen Cleaver in 1971



Black Scholar Interviews: Kathleen Cleaver (1971)


CLEAVER, KATHLEEN (1971). "BLACK SCHOLAR INTERVIEWS: KATHLEEN CLEAVER". The Black Scholar 3 (4): 54–59. ISSN 0006-4246.

  • I viewed myself as assisting everything that was done, and you must recognize that this is what's key in the liberation of women. That the form of assistance that women give in political movements to men is just as crucial as the leadership that men give to those movements. And this is something that is never recognized and never dealt with. Because women are always relegated to assistance and this is where I became interested in the liberation of women. p.55
  • The suggestion itself was never viewed objectively. The fact that the suggestion came from a woman gave it some lesser value. p.56
  • In order for women to obtain liberation, the struggles are going to have to be united on the basis of being women, not on the basis of being black women or white women.
    • But that relationship, I'm positive, will have to be on a coalition basis and not on an integrated basis. Because the problems of black women and the problems of white women are so completely diverse they cannot possibly be solved in the same type of organization nor met by the same type of activity. p.56
  • What we see today in the development of the women's liberation movement is the beginning of the entrance of woman into history, the woman beginning to speak for the woman. The woman beginning to understand, analyze the history of woman; the woman seeking the roots of the source of her oppression in order to be able to deal with this. p.58

Woman, Power, and Revolution (1998)


Women, Power, and Revolution (1998) | Kathleen Neal Cleaver. www.historyisaweapon.com.

Quotes about Kathleen Cleaver

  • While China's own history on the Woman Question is pretty dismal, Mao's dictum that "women hold up half the sky" as well as his brief writings on women's equality and participation in the revolutionary process endowed women's liberation with some revolutionary legitimacy on the Left. Of course, Maoism didn't make the movement: The fact is, women's struggles within the New Left played the most important role in reorienting leftist movements toward a feminist agenda or at least putting feminism the table. But for black women in the Panthers suspicious of "white feminism," Mao's language on women's equality provided space within the party to develop an incipient black feminist agenda. As the newly appointed minister of information, Panther Elaine Brown announced to a press conference soon after returning from China in 1971 that "the BPP acknowledges the progressive leadership of our Chinese comrades in all areas of revolution. Specifically, we embrace China's correct recognition of the proper status of women as equal to that of men." Even beyond the rhetoric, black women Panthers such as Lynn French, Kathleen Cleaver, Erica Huggins, Akua Njere, and Assata Shakur (formerly Joanne Chesimard) sustained the tradition of carving out free spaces within existing male-dominated organizations in order to challenge the multiple forms of exploitation that black working-class women faced daily.
  • It is important for us to know the history of Puerto Rican and Black women who fought for freedom of our peoples. We are not taught about them because even today people believe that women had no role in history. People still believe that women are only supposed to stay at home, cooking and sewing and raising children. These are the same things that were said to Sojourner Truth over a hundred years ago and they are still being said now. Women who speak out against injustice and fight for revolution are accused of acting like men, and we must understand that revolution is the job of men and women, brothers and sisters. We must learn from great women like Lolita Lebron, Carmen Perez, Antonia Martinez, Kathleen Cleaver and Ericka Huggins. This is what Point 10 of the YOUNG LORDS PARTY 13-Point Program and Platform means when it says "We want equality for women; machismo must be revolutionary and not oppressive."
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