Amiri Baraka

1934–2014
Amiri Baraka

Poet, writer, teacher, and political activist Amiri Baraka was born Everett LeRoi Jones in 1934 in Newark, New Jersey. He attended Rutgers University and Howard University, spent three years in the U.S. Air Force, and returned to New York City to attend Columbia University and the New School for Social Research. Baraka was well known for his strident social criticism, often writing in an incendiary style that made it difficult for some audiences and critics to respond with objectivity to his works. Throughout most of his career his method in poetry, drama, fiction, and essays was confrontational, calculated to shock and awaken audiences to the political concerns of black Americans. For decades, Baraka was one of the most prominent voices in the world of American literature.

Baraka’s own political stance changed several times, thus dividing his oeuvre into periods: as a member of the avant-garde during the 1950s, Baraka—writing as Leroi Jones—was associated with Beat poets like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac; in the ‘60s, he moved to Harlem and became a Black Nationalist; in the ‘70s, he was involved in third-world liberation movements and identified as a Marxist. More recently, Baraka was accused of anti-Semitism for his poem “Somebody Blew up America,” written in response to the September 11 attacks.

Baraka incited controversy throughout his career. He was praised for speaking out against oppression as well as accused of fostering hate. Critical opinion has been sharply divided between those who agree, with Dissent contributor Stanley Kaufman, that Baraka’s race and political moment have created his celebrity, and those who feel that Baraka stands among the most important writers of the twentieth century. In the American Book Review, Arnold Rampersad counted Baraka with Phyllis Wheatley, Frederick Douglass, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, and Ralph Ellison “as one of the eight figures . . . who have significantly affected the course of African-American literary culture.”

Baraka did not always identify with radical politics, nor did his writing always court controversy. During the 1950s Baraka lived in Greenwich Village, befriending Beat poets Allen Ginsberg, Frank O’Hara, and Gilbert Sorrentino. The white avant-garde—primarily Ginsberg, O’Hara, and leader of the Black Mountain poets Charles Olson—and Baraka believed in poetry as a process of discovery rather than an exercise in fulfilling traditional expectations. Baraka, like the projectivist poets, believed that a poem’s form should follow the shape determined by the poet’s own breath and intensity of feeling. In 1958 Baraka founded Yugen magazine and Totem Press, important forums for new verse. He was married to his co-editor, Hettie Cohen, from 1960 to 1965. His first play, A Good Girl Is Hard to Find, was produced at Sterington House in Montclair, New Jersey, that same year. Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note, Baraka’s first published collection of poems appeared in 1961. M.L. Rosenthal wrote in The New Poets: American and British Poetry since World War II that these poems show Baraka’s “natural gift for quick, vivid imagery and spontaneous humor.” Rosenthal also praised the “sardonic or sensuous or slangily knowledgeable passages” that fill the early poems. While the cadence of blues and many allusions to black culture are found in the poems, the subject of blackness does not predominate. Throughout, rather, the poet shows his integrated, Bohemian social roots. The book’s last line is “You are / as any other sad man here / american.”

With the rise of the civil rights movement Baraka’s works took on a more militant tone. His trip to Cuba in 1959 marked an important turning point in his life. His view of his role as a writer, the purpose of art, and the degree to which ethnic awareness deserved to be his subject changed dramatically. In Cuba he met writers and artists from third world countries whose political concerns included the fight against poverty, famine, and oppressive governments. In Home: Social Essays (1966), Baraka explains how he tried to defend himself against their accusations of self-indulgence, and was further challenged by Jaime Shelley, a Mexican poet, who said, “‘In that ugliness you live in, you want to cultivate your soul? Well, we’ve got millions of starving people to feed, and that moves me enough to make poems out of.’” Soon Baraka began to identify with third world writers and to write poems and plays with strong political messages.

Dutchman, a play of entrapment in which a white woman and a middle-class black man both express their murderous hatred on a subway, was first performed Off-Broadway in 1964. While other dramatists of the time were wedded to naturalism, Baraka used symbolism and other experimental techniques to enhance the play’s emotional impact. The play established Baraka’s reputation as a playwright and has been often anthologized and performed. It won the Village Voice Obie Award in 1964 and was later made into a film. The plays and poems following Dutchman expressed Baraka’s increasing disappointment with white America and his growing need to separate from it. Critics observed that as Baraka’s poems became more politically intense, they left behind some of the flawless technique of the earlier poems. Richard Howard wrote of The Dead Lecturer (1964) in the Nation: “These are the agonized poems of a man writing to save his skin, or at least to settle in it, and so urgent is their purpose that not one of them can trouble to be perfect.”

To make a clean break with the Beat influence, Baraka turned to writing fiction in the mid-1960s, penning The System of Dante’s Hell (1965), a novel, and Tales (1967), a collection of short stories. The stories are “‘fugitive narratives’ that describe the harried flight of an intensely self-conscious Afro-American artist/intellectual from neo-slavery of blinding, neutralizing whiteness, where the area of struggle is basically within the mind,” Robert Elliot Fox wrote in Conscientious Sorcerers: The Black Postmodernist Fiction of LeRoi Jones/Baraka, Ishmael Reed, and Samuel R. Delany. The role of violent action in achieving political change is more prominent in these stories, as is the role of music in black life.

In addition to his poems, novels and politically-charged essays, Baraka is a noted writer of music criticism. His classic history Blues People: Negro Music in White America (1963) traces black music from slavery to contemporary jazz. Finding indigenous black art forms was important to Baraka in the ‘60s, as he was searching for a more authentic voice for his own poetry. Baraka became known as an articulate jazz critic and a perceptive observer of social change. As Clyde Taylor stated in Amiri Baraka: The Kaleidoscopic Torch, “The connection he nailed down between the many faces of black music, the sociological sets that nurtured them, and their symbolic evolutions through socio-economic changes, in Blues People, is his most durable conception, as well as probably the one most indispensable thing said about black music.” Baraka also published the important studies Black Music (1968) and The Music: Reflections on Jazz and Blues (1987). Lloyd W. Brown commented in Amiri Baraka that Baraka’s essays on music are flawless: “As historian, musicological analyst, or as a journalist covering a particular performance Baraka always commands attention because of his obvious knowledge of the subject and because of a style that is engaging and persuasive even when the sentiments are questionable and controversial.”

After Black Muslim leader Malcolm X was killed in 1965, Baraka moved to Harlem and founded the Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School. The Black Arts Movement helped develop a new aesthetic for black art and Baraka was its primary theorist. Black American artists should follow “black,” not “white” standards of beauty and value, he maintained, and should stop looking to white culture for validation. The black artist’s role, he wrote in Home: Social Essays (1966), is to “aid in the destruction of America as he knows it.” Foremost in this endeavor was the imperative to portray society and its ills faithfully so that the portrayal would move people to take necessary corrective action. He married his second wife, Amina, in 1967. In that same year, Baraka published the poetry collection Black Magic, which chronicles his separation from white culture and values while displaying his mastery of poetic technique. There was no doubt that Baraka’s political concerns superseded his just claims to literary excellence, and critics struggled to respond to the political content of the works. Some felt the best art must be apolitical and dismissed Baraka’s newer work as “a loss to literature.” Kenneth Rexroth wrote in With Eye and Ear that Baraka “has succumbed to the temptation to become a professional Race Man of the most irresponsible sort. . . . His loss to literature is more serious than any literary casualty of the Second War.” In 1966 Bakara moved back to Newark, New Jersey, and a year later changed his name to the Bantuized Muslim appellation Imamu (“spiritual leader,” later dropped) Ameer (later Amiri, “prince”) Baraka (“blessing”).

By the early 1970s Baraka was recognized as an influential African-American writer. Randall noted in Black World that younger black poets Nikki Giovanni and Don L. Lee (later Haki R. Madhubuti) were “learning from LeRoi Jones, a man versed in German philosophy, conscious of literary tradition . . . who uses the structure of Dante’s Divine Comedy in his System of Dante’s Hell and the punctuation, spelling and line divisions of sophisticated contemporary poets.” More importantly, Arnold Rampersad wrote in the American Book Review, “More than any other black poet . . . he taught younger black poets of the generation past how to respond poetically to their lived experience, rather than to depend as artists on embalmed reputations and outmoded rhetorical strategies derived from a culture often substantially different from their own.”

After coming to see Black Nationalism as a destructive form of racism, Baraka denounced it in 1974 and became a third world socialist. He produced a number of Marxist poetry collections and plays in the 1970s that reflected his newly adopted political goals. Critics contended that works like the essays collected in Daggers and Javelins (1984) lack the emotional power of the works from his Black Nationalist period. However, Joe Weixlmann, in Amiri Baraka: The Kaleidoscopic Torch, argued against the tendency to categorize the radical Baraka instead of analyze him: “At the very least, dismissing someone with a label does not make for very satisfactory scholarship. Initially, Baraka’s reputation as a writer and thinker derived from a recognition of the talents with which he is so obviously endowed. The subsequent assaults on that reputation have, too frequently, derived from concerns which should be extrinsic to informed criticism.”

In more recent years, recognition of Baraka’s impact on late 20th century American culture has resulted in the publication of several anthologies of his literary oeuvre. The LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka Reader (1999) presents a thorough overview of the writer’s development, covering the period from 1957 to 1983. The volume presents Baraka’s work from four different periods and emphasizes lesser-known works rather than the author’s most famous writings. Transbluency: The Selected Poems of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones (1961-1995), published in 1995, was hailed by Daniel L. Guillory in Library Journal as “critically important.” And Donna Seaman, writing in Booklist, commended the “lyric boldness of this passionate collection.” Kamau Brathwaite described Baraka’s 2004 collection, Somebody Blew up America & Other Poems, as “one more mark in modern Black radical and revolutionary cultural reconstruction.” The book contains Baraka’s controversial poem of the same name, which he wrote as New Jersey’s poet laureate. After the poem’s publication, public outcry became so great that the governor of New Jersey took action to abolish the position. Baraka sued, though the United States Court of Appeals eventually ruled that state officials were immune from such charges.

Baraka’s legacy as a major poet of the second half of the 20th century remains matched by his importance as a cultural and political leader. His influence on younger writers has been significant and widespread, and as a leader of the Black Arts movement of the 1960s Baraka did much to define and support black literature’s mission into the next century. His experimental fiction of the 1960s is considered some of the most significant African-American fiction since that of Jean Toomer. Writers from other ethnic groups have credited Baraka with opening “tightly guarded doors” in the white publishing establishment, noted Maurice Kenney in Amiri Baraka: The Kaleidoscopic Torch, who added: “We’d all still be waiting the invitation from the New Yorker without him. He taught us how to claim it and take it.”

Baraka was recognized for his work through a PEN/Faulkner Award, a Rockefeller Foundation Award for Drama, and the Langston Hughes Award from City College of New York. He was awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He died in 2014.

 

Career

State University of New York at Stony Brook, assistant professor, 1980-83, associate professor, 1983-85, professor of African studies, 1985—, professor emeritus. Instructor, New School for Social Research (now New School University), New York, NY, 1962-64; visiting professor, University of Buffalo, summer, 1964, Columbia University, fall, 1964, and 1966-67, San Francisco State University, 1967, Yale University, 1977-78, George Washington University, 1978-79, and Rutgers University, 1988. Founded Yugen magazine and Totem Press, 1958; co-editor and founder of Floating Bar magazine, 1961-63; editor of Black Nation. Founder and director, Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School, 1964-66; director of Spirit House (black community theater; also known as Heckalu Community Center), 1965-75, and head of advisory group at Treat Elementary School, both in Newark; Kimako Blues People (community arts space), co-director. Founder, Congress of African People, 1970-76. Member, Political Prisoners Relief Fund, and African Liberation Day Commission. Candidate, Newark community council, 1968. National Black Political Assembly, former secretary general and co-governor; National Black United Front, member; Congress of African People, co-founder and chair; League of Revolutionary Struggle, member.

Bibliography

PLAYS

  • (Under name LeRoi Jones) A Good Girl Is Hard to Find, produced in Montclair, NJ, 1958.
  • (Under name LeRoi Jones) Dante (one act; excerpted from novel The System of Dante’s Hell; also see below), produced in New York, NY, 1961, produced as The Eighth Ditch, 1964.
  • (Under name LeRoi Jones) Dutchman (also see below; produced Off-Broadway, 1964; produced in London, 1967), Faber & Faber (London, England), 1967.
  • (Under name LeRoi Jones) The Baptism: A Comedy in One Act (also see below; produced Off-Broadway, 1964, produced in London), Sterling Lord, 1966.
  • (Under name LeRoi Jones) The Toilet (also see below; produced with The Slave: A Fable Off-Broadway, 1964), Sterling Lord, 1964.
  • Dutchman [and] The Slave: A Fable, Morrow (New York, NY), 1964.
  • (Under name LeRoi Jones) J-E-L-L-O (one act comedy; also see below; produced in New York, NY, by Black Arts Repertory Theatre, 1965), Third World Press, 1970.
  • (Under name LeRoi Jones) Experimental Death Unit #1 (one act; also see below), produced Off-Broadway, 1965.
  • (Under name LeRoi Jones) The Death of Malcolm X (one act; produced in Newark, NJ, 1965), published in New Plays from the Black Theatre, edited by Ed Bullins, Bantam (New York, NY), 1969.
  • (Under name LeRoi Jones) A Black Mass (also see below), produced in Newark, NJ, 1966.
  • Slave Ship (also see below; produced as Slave Ship: A Historical Pageant at Spirit House, 1967; produced in New York, NY, 1969), Jihad, 1967.
  • Madheart: Morality Drama (one act; also see below), produced at San Francisco State College, 1967.
  • Arm Yourself, or Harm Yourself, A One-Act Play (also see below; produced at Spirit House, 1967), Jihad, 1967.
  • Great Goodness of Life (A Coon Show) (one act; also see below), produced at Spirit House, 1967; produced Off-Broadway at Tambellini’s Gate Theater, 1969.
  • The Baptism [and] The Toilet, Grove (New York, NY), 1967.
  • Home on the Range (one act comedy; also see below), produced at Spirit House, 1968; produced in New York, NY, 1968.
  • Junkies Are Full of SHHH... , produced at Spirit House, 1968; produced with Bloodrites (also see below), Off-Broadway, 1970.
  • Board of Education (children’s play), produced at Spirit House, 1968.
  • Resurrection in Life (one-act pantomime), produced as Insurrection in Harlem, NY, 1969.
  • Four Black Revolutionary Plays: All Praises to the Black Man (contains Experimental Death Unit #1, A Black Mass, Great Goodness of Life (A Coon Show), and Madheart), Bobbs-Merrill (New York, NY), 1969.
  • Black Dada Nihilism (one act), produced Off-Broadway, 1971.
  • A Recent Killing (three acts), produced Off-Broadway, 1973.
  • Columbia the Gem of the Ocean, produced in Washington, DC, 1973.
  • The New Ark’s A-Moverin, produced in Newark, NJ, 1974.
  • The Sidnee Poet Heroical, in Twenty-nine Scenes (one act comedy; also see below; produced Off-Broadway, 1975), Reed & Cannon, 1979.
  • S-1: A Play with Music (also see below), produced in New York, NY, 1976.
  • (With Frank Chin and Leslie Siko) America More or Less (musical), produced in San Francisco, CA, 1976.
  • The Motion of History (four-act; also see below), produced in New York, NY, 1977.
  • The Motion of History and Other Plays (contains Slave Ship and S-1), Morrow (New York, NY), 1978.
  • What Was the Relationship of the Lone Ranger to the Means of Production? (one-act; also see below; produced in New York, NY, 1979 ), Anti-Imperialist Cultural Union, 1978.
  • Dim Cracker Party Convention, produced in New York, NY, 1980.
  • Boy and Tarzan Appear in a Clearing, produced Off-Broadway, 1981.
  • Money: Jazz Opera, produced Off-Broadway, 1982.
  • Song: A One-Act Play about the Relationship of Art to Real Life, produced in Jamaica, NY, 1983.
  • General Hag’s Skeezag, 1992.

Also author of plays Police, published in Drama Review, summer, 1968; Rockgroup, published in Cricket, December, 1969; Black Power Chant, published in Drama Review, December, 1972; The Coronation of the Black Queen, published in Black Scholar, June, 1970; Vomit and the Jungle Bunnies, Revolt of the Moonflowers, 1969, Primitive World, 1991, Jackpot Melting, 1996, Election Machine Warehouse, 1996, Meeting Lillie, 1997, Biko, 1997, and Black Renaissance in Harlem, 1998.

Plays included in anthologies, including Woodie King and Ron Milner, editors, Black Drama Anthology (includes Bloodrites and Junkies Are Full of SHHH . . .), New American Library, 1971; and Rochelle Owens, editor, Spontaneous Combustion: Eight New American Plays (includes Ba-Ra-Ka), Winter House, 1972.

SCREENPLAYS

  • Dutchman, Gene Persson Enterprises, Ltd., 1967.
  • Black Spring, Jihad Productions, 1968.
  • A Fable (based on The Slave: A Fable), MFR Productions, 1971.
  • Supercoon, Gene Persson Enterprises, Ltd., 1971.

POETRY

  • April 13 (broadside), Penny Poems (New Haven, CT), 1959.
  • Spring and So Forth (broadside), Penny Poems (New Haven, CT), 1960.
  • Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note, Totem/Corinth, 1961.
  • The Disguise (broadside), (New Haven, CT), 1961.
  • The Dead Lecturer (also see below), Grove (New York, NY), 1964.
  • Black Art (also see below), Jihad, 1966.
  • Black Magic (also see below), Morrow (New York, NY), 1967.
  • A Poem for Black Hearts, Broadside Press, 1967.
  • Black Magic: Sabotage; Target Study; Black Art; Collected Poetry, 1961-1967, Bobbs-Merrill (New York, NY), 1969.
  • It’s Nation Time, Third World Press, 1970.
  • Spirit Reach, Jihad, 1972.
  • Afrikan Revolution, Jihad, 1973.
  • Hard Facts: Excerpts, People’s War, 1975, 2nd edition, Revolutionary Communist League, 1975.
  • Spring Song, Baraka, 1979.
  • AM/TRAK, Phoenix Bookshop, 1979.
  • Selected Poetry of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones (includes “Poetry for the Advanced”), Morrow (New York, NY), 1979.
  • In the Tradition: For Black Arthur Blythe, Jihad, 1980.
  • Reggae or Not!, Contact Two, 1982.
  • LeRoi Jones—Amiri, Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1991.
  • Transbluency: The Selected Poems of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones (1961-1995), Marsilio, 1995.
  • Funk Lore: New Poems, 1984-1995, Sun & Moon Press, 1996.
  • Beginnings and Other Poems, House of Nehesi (Fredericksburg, VA), 2003.
  • Somebody Blew up America and Other Poems, House of Nehesi (Philipsburg, St. Martin, Caribbean), 2003.
  • Un Poco Low Coup (chapbook), Ishmael Reed Publishing Company, 2004.
  • The Book of Monk, John LeBow, 2005.

ESSAYS

  • Cuba Libre, Fair Play for Cuba Committee (New York, NY), 1961.
  • Blues People: Negro Music in White America, Morrow (New York, NY), 1963, reprinted, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 1980, published as Negro Music in White America, MacGibbon & Kee (London, England), 1965.
  • Home: Social Essays (contains “Cuba Libre,” “The Myth of a ‘Negro Literature,’“ “Expressive Language,” “The Legacy of Malcolm X, and the Coming of the Black Nation,” and “State/ meant”), Morrow (New York, NY), 1966, Ecco Press (Hopewell, NJ), 1998.
  • Black Music, Morrow (New York, NY), 1968.
  • Raise, Race, Rays, Raze: Essays since 1965, Random House (New York, NY), 1971.
  • Strategy and Tactics of a Pan-African Nationalist Party, Jihad, 1971.
  • Kawaida Studies: The New Nationalism, Third World Press, 1972.
  • Crisis in Boston!, Vita Wa Watu People’s War, 1974.
  • Daggers and Javelins: Essays, 1974-1979, Morrow (New York, NY), 1984.
  • (With wife, Amina Baraka) The Music: Reflections on Jazz and Blues, Morrow (New York, NY), 1987.
  • Jesse Jackson and Black People, 1996.
  • The Essence of Reparation, House of Nehesi (Fredericksburg, VA), 2003.
  • Digging: The Afro-American Soul of American Classical Music, University of California Press, 2009.
  • RazorThird World Press, 2011.

Contributor of essays to Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun; and The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window, Vintage Books (New York, NY), 1995.

EDITOR

  • January 1st 1959: Fidel Castro, Totem, 1959.
  • Four Young Lady Poets, Corinth, 1962.
  • (And author of introduction) The Moderns: An Anthology of New Writing in America, 1963, published as The Moderns: New Fiction in America, 1964.
  • (And co-author) In-formation, Totem, 1965.
  • Gilbert Sorrentino, Black & White, Corinth, 1965.
  • Edward Dorn, Hands Up!, Corinth, 1965.
  • (And contributor) Afro-American Festival of the Arts Magazine, Jihad, 1966, published as Anthology of Our Black Selves, 1969.
  • (With Larry Neal and A. B. Spellman) The Cricket: Black Music in Evolution, Jihad, 1968, published as Trippin’: A Need for Change, New Ark, 1969.
  • (And contributor, with Larry Neal) Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro-American Writing, Morrow (New York, NY), 1968.
  • A Black Value System, Jihad, 1970.
  • (With Billy Abernathy under pseudonym Fundi) In Our Terribleness (Some Elements of Meaning in Black Style), Bobbs-Merrill (New York, NY), 1970.
  • (And author of introduction) African Congress: A Documentary of the First Modern Pan-African Congress, Morrow (New York, NY), 1972.
  • (With Diane Di Prima) The Floating Bear, A Newsletter, No.1-37, 1961-1969, McGilvery, 1974.
  • (With Amina Baraka) Confirmation: An Anthology of African-American Women, Morrow (New York, NY), 1983.

OTHER

  • The System of Dante’s Hell (novel; includes the play Dante), Grove (New York, NY), 1965.
  • (Author of introduction) David Henderson, Felix of the Silent Forest, Poets Press, 1967.
  • Striptease, Parallax, 1967.
  • Tales (short stories), Grove (New York, NY), 1967.
  • (Author of preface) Black Boogaloo (Notes on Black Liberation), Journal of Black Poetry Press, 1969.
  • Focus on Amiri Baraka: Playwright LeRoi Jones Analyzes the 1st National Black Political Convention (sound recording), Center for Cassette Studies, 1973.
  • Three Books by Imamu Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), (contains The System of Dante’s Hell, Tales, and The Dead Lecturer), Grove (New York, NY), 1975.
  • Selected Plays and Prose of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones, Morrow (New York, NY), 1979.
  • The Autobiography of LeRoi Jones/ Amiri Baraka, Freundlich, 1984, Lawrence Hill Books (Chicago, IL), 1997.
  • (Author of introduction) Martin Espada, Rebellion Is the Circle of a Lover’s Hand, Curbstone Press, 1990.
  • (Author of introduction) Eliot Katz, Space, and Other Poems, Northern Lights, 1990.
  • The LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka Reader, Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1991.
  • Thornton Dial: Images of the Tiger, Harry N. Abrams (New York, NY), 1993.
  • Jesse Jackson and Black People, Third World Press, 1994.
  • Shy’s Wise, Y’s: The Griot’s Tale, Third World Press, 1994.
  • (With Charlie Reilly) Conversations with Amiri Baraka (also see below), University Press of Mississippi (Jackson, MS), 1994.
  • Eulogies, Marsilio Publishers (New York, NY), 1996.
  • The Fiction of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, foreword by Greg Tate, Lawrence Hill, 2000.
  • Tales of the Out & the Gone, Akashic Books, 2009.
  • Amiri Baraka and Edward Dorn: The Collected Letters, edited by Claudia Moreno Pisano, University of New Mexico Press, 2013.

Works represented in anthologies, including A Broadside Treasury, For Malcolm, The New Black Poetry, Nommo, and The Trembling Lamb. Contributor to Black Men in Their Own Words, 2002; contributor to periodicals, including Evergreen Review, Poetry, Downbeat, Metronome, Nation, Negro Digest, and Saturday Review. Editor with Diane Di Prima, The Floating Bear, 1961-63.

Baraka’s works have been translated into Japanese, Norwegian, Italian, German, French, and Spanish.

Further Reading

BOOKS

  • Allen, Donald M., and Warren Tallman, editors, Poetics of the New American Poetry, Grove (New York, NY), 1973.
  • Anadolu-Okur, Nilgun, Contemporary African American Theater: Afrocentricity in the Works of Larry Neal, Amiri Baraka, and Charles Fuller, Garland (New York, NY), 1997.
  • Baraka, Amiri, Tales, Grove (New York, NY), 1967.
  • Baraka, Amiri, Black Magic: Sabotage; Target Study; Black Art; Collected Poetry, 1961-1967, Bobbs-Merrill (New York, NY), 1969.
  • Baraka, Amiri, The Autobiography of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, Freundlich Books, 1984.
  • Baraka, Amiri, and Charlie Reilly, Conversations with Amiri Baraka, University Press of Mississippi (Jackson, MS), 1994.
  • Baraka, Amiri, and Larry Neal, editors, Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro-American Writing, Morrow (New York, NY), 1968.
  • Benston, Kimberly A., editor, Baraka: The Renegade and the Mask, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1976.
  • Benston, Kimberly A., editor, Imamu Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones): A Collection of Critical Essays, Prentice-Hall, 1978.
  • Bigsby, C. W. E., Confrontation and Commitment: A Study of Contemporary American Drama, 1959-1966, University of Missouri Press, 1968.
  • Bigsby, C. W. E., The Second Black Renaissance: Essays in Black Literature, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 1980.
  • Bigsby, C. W. E., editor, The Black American Writer, Volume II: Poetry and Drama, Everett/ Edwards, 1970, Penguin (Harmondsworth, England), 1971.
  • Birnebaum, William M., Something for Everybody Is Not Enough, Random House (New York, NY), 1972.
  • Black Literature Criticism, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1991.
  • Brown, Lloyd W., Amiri Baraka, Twayne (New York, NY), 1980.
  • Concise Dictionary of American Literary Biography, Volume 1: The New Consciousness, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1987.
  • Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 1, 1973, Volume 2, 1974, Volume 3, 1975, Volume 5, 1976, Volume 10, 1979, Volume 14, 1980, Volume 33, 1985.
  • Cook, Bruce, The Beat Generation, Scribner (New York, NY), 1971.
  • Dace, Letitia, LeRoi Jones (Imamu Amiri Baraka): A Checklist of Works by and about Him, Nether Press, 1971.
  • Debusscher, Gilbert, and Henry I. Schvey, editors, New Essays on American Drama, Rodopi, 1989.
  • Dictionary of Literary Biography, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 5: American Poets since World War II, 1980, Volume 7: Twentieth-Century American Dramatists, 1981, Volume 16: The Beats; Literary Bohemians in Postwar America, 1983, Volume 38: Afro-American Writers after 1955: Dramatists and Prose Writers, 1985.
  • Dukore, Bernard F., Drama and Revolution, Holt (New York, NY), 1971.
  • Elam, Harry Justin, Taking It to the Streets: The Social Protest Theater of Luis Valdez and Amiri Baraka, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1997.
  • Ellison, Ralph, Shadow and Act, New American Library (New York, NY), 1966.
  • Emanuel, James A., and Theodore L. Gross, editors, Dark Symphony: Negro Literature in America, Free Press (New York, NY), 1968.
  • Fox, Robert Elliot, Conscientious Sorcerers: The Black Postmodernist Fiction of LeRoi Jones/ Baraka, Ishmael Reed, and Samuel R. Delany, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 1987.
  • Frost, David, The Americans, Stein & Day, 1970.
  • Gayle, Addison, The Way of the New World: The Black Novel in America, Anchor/Doubleday (New York, NY), 1975.
  • Gayle, Addison, editor, Black Expression: Essays by and about Black Americans in the Creative Arts, Weybright & Talley, 1969.
  • Gwynne, James B., editor, Amiri Baraka: The Kaleidoscopic Torch, Steppingstones Press, 1985.
  • Harris, William J., The Poetry and Poetics of Amiri Baraka: The Jazz Aesthetic, University of Missouri Press, 1985.
  • Haskins, James, Black Theater in America, Crowell (New York, NY), 1982.
  • Henderson, Stephen E., Understanding the New Black Poetry: Black Speech, and Black Music as Poetic References, Morrow (New York, NY), 1973.
  • Hill, Herbert, Soon, One Morning, Knopf (New York, NY), 1963.
  • Hill, Herbert, editor, Anger, and Beyond: The Negro Writer in the United States, Harper (New York, NY), 1966.
  • Hudson, Theodore, From LeRoi Jones to Amiri Baraka: The Literary Works, Duke University Press, 1973.
  • Inge, M. Thomas, Maurice Duke, and Jackson R. Bryer, editors, Black American Writers: Bibliographic Essays; Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, and Amiri Baraka, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1978.
  • Jones, LeRoi, Blues People: Negro Music in White America, Morrow (New York, NY), 1963.
  • Jones, LeRoi, The Dead Lecturer, Grove (New York, NY), 1964.
  • Jones, LeRoi, Home: Social Essays, Morrow (New York, NY), 1966.
  • Keil, Charles, Urban Blues, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1966.
  • King, Woodie, and Ron Milner, editors, Black Drama Anthology, New American Library (New York, NY), 1971.
  • Knight, Arthur, and Kit Knight, editors, The Beat Vision, Paragon House, 1987.
  • Kofsky, Frank, Black Nationalism and the Revolution in Music, Pathfinder, 1970.
  • Lacey, Henry C., To Raise, Destroy, and Create: The Poetry, Drama, and Fiction of Imamu Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), Whitson Publishing Company, 1981.
  • Lewis, Allan, American Plays and Playwrights, Crown (New York, NY), 1965.
  • Littlejohn, David, Black on White: A Critical Survey of Writing by American Negroes, Viking (New York, NY), 1966.
  • O'Brien, John, Interviews with Black Writers, Liveright (New York, NY), 1973.
  • Olaniyan, Tejumola, Scars of Conquest/Masks of Resistance: The Invention of Cultural Identities in African, African-American, and Caribbean Drama, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1995.
  • Ossman, David, The Sullen Art: Interviews with Modern American Poets, Corinth, 1963.
  • Rexroth, Kenneth, With Eye and Ear, Herder & Herder, 1970.
  • Rosenthal, M. L., The New Poets: American and British Poetry since World War II, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1967.
  • Sollors, Werner, Amiri Baraka/ LeRoi Jones: The Quest for a "Populist Modernism," Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1978.
  • Stepanchev, Stephen, American Poetry since 1945, Harper (New York, NY), 1965.
  • Weales, Gerald, The Jumping-off Place: American Drama in the 1960s, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1969.
  • Whitlow, Roger, Black American Literature: A Critical History, Nelson Hall (New York, NY), 1973.
  • Williams, Sherley Anne, Give Birth to Brightness: A Thematic Study in Neo-Black Literature, Dial (New York, NY), 1972.

PERIODICALS

  • African-American Review, summer-fall, 2003, special Baraka issue.
  • American Book Review, February, 1980; May-June, 1985.
  • Atlantic, January, 1966; May, 1966.
  • Avant Garde, September, 1968.
  • Black American Literature Forum, spring, 1980; spring, 1981; fall, 1982; spring, 1983; winter, 1985.
  • Black Issues Book Review, Robert Fleming, "Trouble Man," p. 22.
  • Black World, April, 1971; December, 1971; November, 1974; July, 1975.
  • Booklist, January 1, 1994, p. 799; February 15, 1994, p. 1052; October 15, 1995, p. 380.
  • Book Week, December 24, 1967.
  • Book World, October 28, 1979.
  • Boundary 2, number 6, 1978.
  • Callaloo, summer, 2003, Matthew Rebhorn, "Flying Dutchman: Maosochism, Minstrelsy, and the Gender Politics of Amiri Baraka's 'Dutchman', " p. 796.
  • Chicago Defender, January 11, 1965.
  • Chicago Tribune, October 4, 1968.
  • Commentary, February, 1965.
  • Contemporary Literature, Volume 12, 1971; winter, 2001, Michael Magee, "Tribes of New York," p. 694.
  • Detroit Free Press, January 31, 1965.
  • Detroit News, January 15, 1984; August 12, 1984.
  • Dissent, spring, 1965.
  • Ebony, August, 1967; August, 1969; February, 1971.
  • Educational Theatre Journal, March, 1968; March, 1970; March, 1976.
  • Esquire, June, 1966.
  • Essence, September, 1970; May, 1984; September, 1984; May, 1985.
  • Jazz Review, June, 1959.
  • Journal of Black Poetry, fall, 1968; spring, 1969; summer, 1969; fall, 1969.
  • Library Journal, January, 1994, p. 112; November, 1995, pp. 78-79.
  • Los Angeles Free Press, Volume 5, number 18, May 3, 1968.
  • Los Angeles Times, April 20, 1990.
  • Los Angeles Times Book Review, May 15, 1983; March 29, 1987.
  • Nation, October 14, 1961; November 14, 1961; March 13, 1964; April 13, 1964; January 4, 1965; March 15, 1965; January 22, 1968; February 2, 1970; November 18, 2002, Art Winslow, "Prosody in Motion," p. 11.
  • Negro American Literature Forum, March, 1966; winter, 1973.
  • Negro Digest, December, 1963; February, 1964; Volume 13, number 19, August, 1964; March, 1965; April, 1965; March, 1966; April, 1966; June, 1966; April, 1967; April, 1968; January, 1969; April, 1969.
  • Newsweek, March 13, 1964; April 13, 1964; November 22, 1965; May 2, 1966; March 6, 1967; December 4, 1967; December 1, 1969; February 19, 1973.
  • New York, November 5, 1979.
  • New Yorker, April 4, 1964; December 26, 1964; March 4, 1967; December 30, 1972; October 14, 2002, Nick Paumgarten, "Goodbye, Paramus."
  • New York Herald Tribune, March 25, 1964; April 2, 1964; December 13, 1964; October 27, 1965.
  • New York Post, March 16, 1964; March 24, 1964; January 15, 1965; March 18, 1965.
  • New York Review of Books, May 22, 1964; January 20, 1966; July 2, 1970; October 17, 1974; June 11, 1984; June 14, 1984.
  • New York Times, April 28, 1966; May 8, 1966; August 10, 1966; September 14, 1966; October 5, 1966; January 20, 1967; February 28, 1967; July 15, 1967; January 5, 1968; January 6, 1968; January 9, 1968; January 10, 1968; February 7, 1968; April 14, 1968; August 16, 1968; November 27, 1968; December 24, 1968; August 26, 1969; November 23, 1969; February 6, 1970; May 11, 1972; June 11, 1972; November 11, 1972; November 14, 1972; November 23, 1972; December 5, 1972; December 27, 1974; December 29, 1974; November 19, 1979; October 15, 1981; January 23, 1984; February 9, 1991.
  • New York Times Book Review, January 31, 1965; November 28, 1965; May 8, 1966; February 4, 1968; March 17, 1968; February 14, 1971; June 6, 1971; June 27, 1971; December 5, 1971; March 12, 1972; December 16, 1979; March 11, 1984; July 5, 1987; December 20, 1987.
  • New York Times Magazine, February 5, 1984.
  • Salmagundi, spring-summer, 1973.
  • Saturday Review, April 20, 1963; January 11, 1964; January 9, 1965; December 11, 1965; December 9, 1967; October 2, 1971; July 12, 1975.
  • Skeptical Inquirer, January-February, 2003, Kevin Christopher, "Baraka Buys Bunk," p. 8.
  • Studies in Black Literature, spring, 1970; Volume 1, number 2, 1970; Volume 3, number 2, 1972; Volume 3, number 3, 1972; Volume 4, number 1, 1973.
  • Sulfur, spring, 1992.
  • Sunday News (New York, NY), January 21, 1973.
  • Time, December 25, 1964; November 19, 1965; May 6, 1966; January 12, 1968; April 26, 1968; June 28, 1968; June 28, 1971.
  • Times Literary Supplement, November 25, 1965; September 1, 1966; September 11, 1969; October 9, 1969; August 2, 1991.
  • Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), March 29, 1987.
  • Village Voice, December 17, 1964; May 6, 1965; May 19, 1965; August 30, 1976; August 1, 1977; December 17-23, 1980; October 2, 1984.
  • Washington Post, August 15, 1968; September 12, 1968; November 27, 1968; December 5, 1980; January 23, 1981; June 29, 1987.
  • Washington Post Book World, December 24, 1967; May 22, 1983.

 

Articles By AMIRI BARAKA

Poetics Essays

Articles About AMIRI BARAKA

Audio & Podcasts

Poem Talk The Poetry Magazine Podcast
  • Listen May 2013: Yes, Tarp
    Poems from Marie Ponsot, Jessica Greenbaum, and Rick Barot; plus Amiri Baraka on the Black Arts Movement.
Avant-Garde All the Time
  • Listen Protest Poetry With a Beat
    Hear Allen Ginsberg's hilarious "CIA Dope Calypso" and peak performances by Ezra Pound, Amiri Baraka and Abbie Hoffman.
Poem of the Day

Poet Categorization

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

LIFE SPAN 1934–2014

Amiri Baraka

Biography

Poet, writer, teacher, and political activist Amiri Baraka was born Everett LeRoi Jones in 1934 in Newark, New Jersey. He attended Rutgers University and Howard University, spent three years in the U.S. Air Force, and returned to New York City to attend Columbia University and the New School for Social Research. Baraka was well known for his strident social criticism, often writing in an incendiary style that made it difficult . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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