Emory University has acquired the personal papers of Kathleen Cleaver, the Black Panther Party member, activist, and retired faculty member at the Emory University School of Law in Atlanta.
The papers, which will reside at Emory’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, span Cleaver’s career and life as an activist, particularly as a member of the Black Panther Party, and include personal and professional correspondence, books and photographs, as well as audiovisual and born-digital material. The collection includes a variety of photographs of Black Panther Party members and associates. Correspondence, speeches, and interviews by iconic civil rights activists such as Malcolm X, Fred Hampton, Huey Newton, and Stokely Carmichael are also among the materials.
Cleaver began her lifelong activist work with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1966 but left the following year to join the Black Panther Party. She served as the party’s communications secretary. She earned bachelor’s and law degrees at Yale University in the 1980s and joined the faculty at the law school at Emory University in 1992.
Carol Anderson, Charles Howard Candler Professor and chair of Emory’s African American Studies department, described the news about the Cleaver papers as “incredible.” Professor Anderson says that “we will learn so much from Kathleen Cleaver’s papers. Her archive will help us understand the role of women in a movement and movement-building and in international freedom struggles. I’m thinking of the different ways scholars can use these papers to enrich our understanding of these enormous issues of freedom, of justice, of globalization, of the role of women, of how gendered roles play out and don’t play out. I wonder if we’ll get a sense of what it’s like to raise babies in the middle of a movement.”
“We are so pleased to acquire the papers of Kathleen Cleaver, an icon in the American civil rights movement,” added Dean and University Librarian Yolanda Cooper. “The archive contains a wealth of information that is unique and not available everywhere due to the integral role she played in the Black Panther Party. These materials will significantly complement many of our related collections in the Rose Library and expand opportunities for more comprehensive research in social justice issues.”