Amiri Baraka Dead: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

amiri baraka

Legendary poet and activist Amiri Baraka died today at the age of 79 years old. Although the cause of death was not immediately known, reports that he had a long standing struggle with diabetes. He was hospitalized in December and was was labeled being in critical condition.

Here is what you need to know about this beloved and controversial figure.

1. He Was Born and Raised in Newark, New Jersey

Amiri Baraka on his poetry and breaking rulesPoet E. Ethelbert Miller introduces Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) as one of the most prolific writers of the century in this 1998 edition of HoCoPoLitSo's The Writing Life. They talk about the writers that influenced his work: Charlie Olson, the Black Mountain Group, Frank O'Hara and Allen Ginsberg. Baraka reads his first published poem, "Preface…2012-11-08T13:27:40.000Z

Born Everett LeRoi Jones in Newark in 1934, Baraka was raised in a working class family. After two years at Rutgers University he transferred to Howard University and graduated in 1945.

2. He Is Associated With the Beat Generation & the New York School

Amiri Baraka – Only Revolution Will Set Us Free (America is a capitalist country)Reading di Amiri Baraka tratto dal documentario "Scarpe fritte e diamanti cotti" sulla Beat Generation nell'ambito di un'intervista di Fernanda Pivano ad Allen Ginsberg.2013-12-23T16:02:58.000Z

After a brief stint in the air force, Baraka, then still called LeRoi Jones, moved to New York City. Due to his interest in the New York jazz scene, Baraka fell in with the Beat Generation.

3. He Was an Important Civil Rights Figure

Amiri Baraka "Obama Poem""Obama Poem" by Amiri Baraka with Rob Brown-saxophone, recorded live on February 21, 2009 at The Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy NY. The poet icon and political activist Amiri Baraka performs with Rob Brown, an eloquent and versatile saxophonist with a deep knowledge of jazz, in a reading from his book "Somebody Blew Up…2009-12-09T20:58:11.000Z

In the 1960s, Baraka became a firm supporter of Fidel Castro’s regime in Cuba due to its progressive racial policies at a time when segregation was still being strongly upheld in the United States.

Baraka also became a follower of Malcolm X’s brand of black nationalism, moving to Harlem after Malcolm’s assassination in 1965 and changing his named to Amiri Baraka in 1967.

4. He Was Poet Laureate of New Jersey

Def Poetry – Amiri Baraka – Why is We AmericansAmiri Baraka in Season 1 Episode 4 of Def Poetry Jam2010-08-26T19:17:05.000Z

Barka became poet laureate of New Jersey in 2002 and was quickly called on to resign after reading a controversial poem about September 11. People were offended by the poem, “Somebody Blew Up America,” which inferred that Israel knew about the September 11 attacks before they happened.

5. He Has Been Embroiled in a Few Controversies



Baraka has been the recipient of much criticism over the years because of his open support of Fidel Castro’s Cuba, his reverence for Lenninist-Marxism, and his previously mentioned thoughts about the September 11 attacks.

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