The 60's had no shortage of visible figures in the radical movement and none probably more visible than Eldridge Cleaver. To many, he was the personification of the militant Black movement in the United States and certainly one its most vocal. When he fled the country in the late 60's for Algeria and parts throughout Europe including a stint in Paris, it was during a time when opposition to the war in Vietnam was at its peak and stretched across the political spectrum. The Black Panther Party was splintered and, like most radical groups at the time, had undergone a fracturing and loss of influence, due in no small part to constant surveillance and undermining by the government, but also because many of those groups had no solid ideological base and were hijacked by groups or individuals whose motives were suspect.
So when Eldridge Cleaver finally returned to the United States in 1975, he had undergone a transformation and a sudden shift to the right. A transformation that seemed baffling to a lot of people. On August 29th 1976 he appeared on Meet The Press and was greeted with a goodly amount of skepticism.
Eldridge Cleaver: “I would not have been a fugitive in the first place had it not been for some of the excesses that were carried out by various agencies”.
The image of the radical Eldridge Cleaver was so ingrained in the national psyche, that this shift had everyone suspicious as to how and why it happened. The ensuing years, leading all the way up to his death in 1998 were also filled with contradictions to his former persona, including an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate from California on the Republican ticket.
A far cry from the icy gaze and clenched fist of the 60's.