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Revolution or Death
Revolution or Death

Revolution or Death

The Life of Eldridge Cleaver


368 Pages, 6 x 9

Formats: Cloth, Mobipocket, PDF, EPUB

Cloth, $28.99 (US $28.99) (CA $38.99)

Publication Date: October 2020

ISBN 9781613739112

Rights: US, CA & MX

Chicago Review Press (Oct 2020)
Lawrence Hill Books


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The first trade biography of one of the most notorious black revolutionaries in history, exploring the audacious dreams and spiritual transformations of the eccentric radical and placing him squarely within the context of his changing times

The figure who embodied the militant and controversial spirit of the Black Panther Party more than anyone was Eldridge Cleaver. Charismatic, brilliant, and courageous, Cleaver built a base of power and influence that struck fear deep in the heart of white America. It was therefore shocking to many left-wing radicals when Cleaver turned his back on black revolution, the Nation of Islam, and communism in 1975. While Cleaver seemed sincerely disillusioned with radicalism, his erratic behavior over the next two decades revealed something that had been a latent part of his psyche all along—his narcissistic megalomania. His influence declined significantly through the 1980s until he found himself back on the streets committing petty crimes. By the time he died, in 1998, he was largely viewed as a turncoat who had betrayed the cause of black freedom. How can we make sense of Cleaver’s precipitous decline from a position as one of America’s most vibrant black writers and activists? Revolution or Death provides the first life story of one of the most notorious black revolutionaries in history.


“Eldridge Cleaver was respected and feared by his enemies as well as his allies. Justin Gifford unpacks the mythology and the mayhem to reveal Leroy Eldridge Cleaver the man. Love him or loathe him, you won’t be able to put this book down.” —Ricky Vincent, author of Party Music

“A spectacularly well-researched and gripping account of a highly charismatic and deeply flawed figure, the historical moments when he was center stage, and his precipitous fall.” —Jeffery Haas, author of The Assassination of Fred Hampton 

“Justin Gifford expertly contextualizes the most explosive and transformative decades in American history as he illuminates how the various facets of Eldridge Cleaver.” —Karin L. Stanford, coauthor with Wayne Pharr of Nine Lives of a Black Panther ‚Äč

"An illuminating study of a complex, memorable historical figure." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review


“A sad story but a deeply American one, and Gifford tells it powerfully.” The San Francisco Chronicle 

Author Biography

Justin Gifford is an associate professor of English literature at the University of Nevada, Reno, and the author of Pimping Fictions: African American Crime Literature and the Untold Story of Black Pulp Publishing and Street Poison: The Biography of Iceberg Slim