Amiri Baraka (born Everett LeRoi Jones October 7, 1934), formerly known as LeRoi Jones and Imamu Amear Baraka, is an African-American writer of poetry, drama, fiction, essays, and music criticism. He is the author of numerous books of poetry and has taught at a number of universities, including the State University of New York at Buffalo and the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He received the PEN Open Book Award formerly known as the Beyond Margins Award in 2008 for Tales of the Out and the Gone.
Amiri Baraka (born Everett LeRoi Jones on October 7, 1934, in Newark, New Jersey) is a American writer of poetry, drama, essays, and music criticism.
In 1957, he was discharged "undesirably" from United States Airforce service and moved to New York's Greenwich Village, where he rapidly became involved with the bohemian beat movement and became influenced by the styles of Allen Ginsberg, Frank O'Hara, and Charles Olson. In 1960, he went to Cuba, which initiated his transformation into a politically active artist; in 1961, Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note was published. This was followed, in 1963, by Blues People: Negro Music in White America, to this day one of the most influential volumes of jazz criticism, especially in regard to the then-beginning Free Jazz movement.
Today, Baraka is most widely known in popular culture for the fact that, in 2002, the state of New Jersey made him poet laureate and then forced him out of that position a year later because of his poem Somebody Blew Up America, which was widely interpreted to mean that Baraka believed the U.S. ruling class was behind the attacks on the World Trade Center — a 9/11 conspiracy theory. Baraka has also been known for his controversial statements on the prospects for greater black-white societal reconciliation. A former lecturer at Yale University, he answered one female white student's question on how whites could help the situation with this response: "You can help by dying. You are a cancer. You can help the world's people by your death."
Baraka has been a self-proclaimed communist since 1974, but given a history of questionable political leanings and activity, many on the Radical Left do not accept the legitimacy of this claim to the principles of Marxism. In 2006, controversial right-wing author and lecturer, David Horowitz, included Baraka his The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America.
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