Amiri Baraka

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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Amiri Baraka was born 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 has become most known for his strident social criticism, often writing in an incendiary style that has made it difficult for some audiences and critics to respond with objectivity to his works. Throughout his career his method in poetry, drama, fiction, and essays has been confrontational, calculated to shock and awaken audiences to the political concerns of black Americans. Baraka’s own political stance has 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 has been accused of anti-Semitism for his poem “Somebody Blew up America,” written in response to the September 11 attacks.