Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones)

Baraka, Amiri

Amiri Baraka (amērē bərä´kə), 1934–2014, American poet, playwright, and political activist, b. Newark, N.J., as Everett LeRoy Jones, studied at Rutgers Univ., Howard Univ. In college he adopted the name LeRoi Jones. In the 1950s he moved to Greenwich Village, where he associated with writers of the beat generation and founded two literary magazines and a small publishing company. Radicalized in the early 1960s, he won critical attention and notoriety in 1964 when four of his plays—Dutchman,The Toilet,The Baptism, and The Slave—were produced Off-Broadway in New York City. A provocative political analyst, he wrote many works that express a strident anger toward the racism of mainstream white American society, and was an important figure in the Black Arts movement of the 1960s and 70s, which echoed the aims of the Black Power movement. His volumes of poems include Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note (1961), Selected Poetry (1979), Transbluesency: The Selected Poems of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones, 1961–1995 (1995), and Eulogies (1996). Among his many other plays are those in The Motion of History and Other Plays (1978) and Election-Machine Warehouse (1996); his volumes of essays include Blues People: Negro Music in White America (1963, repr. 1980) and Daggers and Javelins (1984). With his second wife, Amina Baraka, he edited Confirmation: An Anthology of African-American Women (1983). His collected fiction was published in 2000.

Baraka also was deeply involved with the African-American community. He founded Harlem's Black Arts Repertory Theatre and a related school in 1965. After they closed in the late 1960s he moved back to Newark, converted to Islam, and changed his name to Amiri Baraka. In 1968 he established the Black Community Development and Defense Organization, and started the Black National Political Convention in 1972. He also taught at a number of colleges and universities, and was named New Jersey's third poet laureate in 2002. After one of his poems suggested that Israel had foreknowledge of the 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, the resulting controversy led to unsuccessful demands for his resignation or firing; in 2003 the state legislature eliminated the poet laureateship to remove him.

See W. J. Harris, ed., The LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka Reader (1999) and Baraka's The Autobiography of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones (1984, rev. ed. 1997); C. Reilly, ed., Conversations with Amiri Baraka (1994); studies by K. W. Benston, ed. (1978), T. R. Hudson (1973), W. Sollors (1978), W. J. Harris (1987), K. Woodard (1999), and J. G. Watts (2001).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

To Raise, Destroy, and Create: The Poetry, Drama, and Fiction of Imamu Amiri Baraka (Le Roi Jones)
Henry C. Lacey.
Whitston, 1981
Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note
Le Roi Jones.
Totem Press; Corinth Books, 1961
The Trembling Lamb
Antonin Artaud; Carl Solomon; Bernard Fretchman; LeRoi Jones; John Fles.
Phoenix Bookshop, 1959
Librarian’s tip: Baraka's "The System of Dante's Inferno" begins on p. 29
Modern Black American Poets and Dramatists
Harold Bloom.
Chelsea House, 1995
Librarian’s tip: "Imamu Amiri Baraka" begins on p. 15
Amiri Baraka Analyzes How He Writes
Salaam, Kalamu ya.
African American Review, Vol. 37, No. 2-3, Summer-Fall 2003
Contemporary American Drama
Annette J. Saddik.
Edinburgh University Press, 2007
Librarian’s tip: Baraka is discussed in Chap. 3 "African-American Theatre: Voices from the Margins"
"Pat Your Foot and Turn the Corner": Amiri Baraka, the Black Arts Movement, and the Poetics of a Popular Avant-Garde
Smethurst, James.
African American Review, Vol. 37, No. 2-3, Summer-Fall 2003
In the Tradition: Amiri Baraka, Black Liberation, and Avant-Garde Praxis in the U.S
Kim, Daniel Won-gu.
African American Review, Vol. 37, No. 2-3, Summer-Fall 2003
Scars of Conquest/Masks of Resistance: The Invention of Cultural Identities in African, African-American, and Caribbean Drama
Tejumola Olaniyan.
Oxford University Press, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka: The Motion of History"
The Logic of Retribution: Amiri Baraka's Dutchman
Kumar, Nita N.
African American Review, Vol. 37, No. 2-3, Summer-Fall 2003
Realism and the American Dramatic Tradition
William W. Demastes.
University of Alabama Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Fourteen "The Limits of African-American Political Realism: Baraka's Dutchman and Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"
Disrupting Racial Performances in Amiri Baraka's Police
Kolin, Philip C.
Notes on Contemporary Literature, Vol. 37, No. 1, January 2007
The Paradox of Experience: Black Art and Black Idiom in the Work of Amiri Baraka
Roney, Patrick.
African American Review, Vol. 37, No. 2-3, Summer-Fall 2003
Duplicities of Power: Amiri Baraka's and Lorenzo Thomas's Responses to September 11
Gery, John Roy Octavius.
African American Review, Vol. 44, No. 1-2, Spring-Summer 2011
Uptown Conversation: The New Jazz Studies
Robert G. O'Meally; Brent Hayes Edwards; Farah Jasmine Griffin.
Columbia University Press, 2004
Librarian’s tip: "'How You Sound??' Amiri Baraka Writes Free Jazz" begins on p. 312
The Moderns: An Anthology of New Writing in America
Leroi Jones.
Corinth Books, 1963
Librarian’s tip: Includes "The Screamers," Hypocrite(s)," and "Thieves" by Baraka
Blues People: Negro Music in White America
LeRoi Jones.
William Morrow, 1963
In Memoriam: Amiri Baraka
Journal of Pan African Studies, Vol. 6, No. 7, February 2014
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