Amiri Baraka, a poet and playwright of pulsating rage, whose long illumination of the black experience in America was called incandescent in some quarters and incendiary in others, died on Thursday in Newark. He was 79.
His death, at Beth Israel Medical Center, was confirmed by his son Ras Baraka, a member of the Newark Municipal Council. He did not specify a cause but said that Mr. Baraka had been hospitalized since Dec. 21.
Mr. Baraka was famous as one of the major forces in the Black Arts movement of the 1960s and ’70s, which sought to duplicate in fiction, poetry, drama and other mediums the aims of the black power movement in the political arena.
Among his best-known works are the poetry collections “The Dead Lecturer” and “Transbluesency: The Selected Poetry of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones, 1961-1995”; the play “Dutchman”; and “Blues People: Negro Music in White America,” a highly regarded historical survey.
Mr. Baraka, whose work was widely anthologized and who was heard often on the lecture circuit, was also long famous as a political firebrand. Here, too, critical opinion was divided: He was described variously as an indomitable champion of the disenfranchised, particularly in the racially charged political landscape of Newark, where he lived most of his life, or as a gadfly whose finest hour had come and gone by the end of the 1960s.
In the series of alternating embraces and repudiations that would become an ideological hallmark, Mr. Baraka spent his early career as a beatnik, his middle years as a black nationalist and his later ones as a Marxist. His shifting stance was seen as either an accurate mirror of the changing times or an accurate barometer of his own quicksilver mien.
He came to renewed, unfavorable attention in 2002, when a poem he wrote about the Sept. 11 attacks, which contained lines widely seen as anti-Semitic, touched off a firestorm that resulted in the elimination of his post as New Jersey’s poet laureate.
Over six decades, Mr. Baraka’s writings — his work also included essays and music criticism — were periodically accused of being anti-Semitic, misogynist, homophobic, racist, isolationist and dangerously militant.
But his champions and detractors agreed that at his finest he was a powerful voice on the printed page, a riveting orator in person and an enduring presence on the international literary scene whom — whether one loved or hated him — it was seldom possible to ignore.
“Love is an evil word,” Mr. Baraka, writing as LeRoi Jones, the name by which he was first known professionally, said in an early poem, “In Memory of Radio.” It continues:
Turn it backwards/see, see what I mean?
An evol word. & besides
who understands it?
I certainly wouldn’t like to go out on that kind of limb.
Saturday mornings we listened to Red Lantern & his undersea folk.
At 11, Let’s Pretend/& we did/& I, the poet, still do. Thank God!
Among reviewers, there was no firm consensus on Mr. Baraka’s literary merit, and the mercurial nature of his work seems to guarantee that there can never be.
Writing in The Daily News of New York in 2002, Stanley Crouch described Mr. Baraka’s work since the late 1960s as “an incoherent mix of racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, black nationalism, anarchy and ad hominem attacks relying on comic book and horror film characters and images that he has used over and over and over.”
In contrast, the critic Arnold Rampersad placed Mr. Baraka in the pantheon of genre-changing African-American writers that includes Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Richard Wright and Zora Neale Hurston.
Everett Leroy Jones was born in Newark on Oct. 7, 1934. His father, Coyette, was a postal supervisor; his mother, the former Anna Russ, was a social worker. Growing up, young Leroy, as he was known, took piano, drum and trumpet lessons — a background that would inform his later work as a jazz writer — and also studied drawing and painting.
After studying briefly at Rutgers University in Newark, he entered Howard University. During this period, partly in homage to the African-American journalist Roi Ottley (1906-60), he changed the spelling of his name to LeRoi, with the emphasis on the second syllable.
Though by all accounts a brilliant student, he came to regard the university’s emphasis on upward mobility for blacks as distastefully assimilationist — “an employment agency” where “they teach you to pretend to be white,” he later called it. Losing interest in his classes, he was expelled before graduating.
He joined the Air Force.
“It was the worst period of my life,” Mr. Baraka told Essence magazine in 1985. “I finally found out what it was like to be disconnected from family and friends. I found out what it was like to be under the direct jurisdiction of people who hated black people. I had never known that directly.”
To stave off loneliness and misery, he read widely and deeply, stocking the library on his base in Puerto Rico with books — philosophy, literary fiction, left-wing history — the likes of which it had almost certainly never seen.
After three years, he was dishonorably discharged: Some of his reading material had made the Air Force suspect that he was a Communist. The irony, he later said, was that he did become a Communist, but not until long afterward.
He moved to New York, where he took an editorial job on a music magazine, The Record Changer, and settled in Greenwich Village amid the heady atmosphere of the Beat poets.
He befriended their dean, Allen Ginsberg, to whom, in the puckish spirit of the times, he had written a letter on toilet paper reading, “Are you for real?” (“I’m for real, but I’m tired of being Allen Ginsberg,” came the reply, on what, its recipient would note with amusement, was “a better piece of toilet paper.”)
In 1958 LeRoi Jones married a colleague, Hettie Cohen. Together they founded a literary magazine, Yugen, which published his work and that of Mr. Ginsberg, Gregory Corso and Jack Kerouac. With the poet Diane di Prima, he established and edited another literary magazine, The Floating Bear.
He also started a small publishing company, Totem Press, which in 1961 issued his first collection of verse, “Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note.” In the volume’s title poem, he wrote:
Nobody sings anymore.
And then last night, I tiptoed up
To my daughter’s room and heard her
Talking to someone, and when I opened
The door, there was no one there ...
Only she on her knees, peeking into
Her own clasped hands.
His early poems were praised for their lyricism and for the immediacy of their language — throughout his career, he said, he wrote as much for the ear as for the eye.
Mr. Jones considered himself a largely apolitical writer at first: Like that of many Beats, his poetry was concerned more with introspection. But he was radicalized by traveling to Cuba in 1960, the year after Fidel Castro came to power, to attend an international conference featuring writers from an array of third world countries.
As a result, he later said, he came to believe that art and politics should be indissolubly linked.
His political awakening was soon manifest in his work. His first major book, “Blues People,” published in 1963, placed black music, from blues to free jazz, in a wider sociohistorical context.
Writing in The New York Times Book Review, the folklorist Vance Randolph said, “The book is full of fascinating anecdotes, many of them concerned with social and economic matters,” going on to commend its “personal warmth.”
Mr. Jones came to even greater prominence in 1964, when his one-act play “Dutchman” opened Off Broadway at the Cherry Lane Theater in the Village.
Experimental, allegorical and unabashedly angry, “Dutchman” was set aboard a New York City subway train. There, Lula, a young white woman, strikes up a conversation with Clay, a young middle-class black man. As the play unspools, she goads him, with apparent liberal righteousness, into releasing the anger that, as a black man, he must surely be harboring.
When Clay finally explodes, Lula stabs him to death as other riders passively look on. After disposing of his body with casual impunity, she sits back, smiles and, as another black man boards the train, makes pointed eye contact with him before the curtain falls.
“Dutchman” won the Obie Award, presented by The Village Voice to honor Off and Off Off Broadway productions, as the best American play of 1964.
Mr. Jones’s other early plays include “The Slave,” a violent, futuristic fable about an American race war, and “J-E-L-L-O,” a farcical reworking of Jack Benny’s television show in which Mr. Benny and his friends are assaulted and robbed by Rochester, his newly militant black valet.
For all the acclaim that followed “Dutchman,” Mr. Jones largely disdained his newfound celebrity, turning down the scriptwriting offers that poured in from Hollywood. (A film version of “Dutchman,” with a screenplay by Mr. Baraka and starring Shirley Knight and Al Freeman Jr., was released in 1967.)
He turned instead to academia, teaching at Columbia, Yale and elsewhere. At his death he was emeritus professor of Africana studies at Stony Brook University on Long Island, where he had taught since 1979.
Mr. Jones was further radicalized by the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965. Soon afterward, having come to believe that marriage to a white woman was ideologically untenable, he left his wife and their two daughters and moved to Harlem. (In 1990 his former wife would publish “How I Became Hettie Jones,” a memoir of their time together.)
In Harlem, Mr. Jones founded the Black Arts Repertory Theater, which staged many of his plays, and an associated theater school.
By the late ’60s, after the theater and school had folded, he had moved back to Newark, converted to Islam and adopted the Bantuized Arabic name Imamu (“spiritual leader”) Ameer (“prince”) Baraka (“blessed”), which he would later alter to Amiri Baraka.
Some critics felt that Mr. Baraka’s work from then on was the worse for his radicalism. In his 1970 essay collection “With Eye and Ear,” the poet and critic Kenneth Rexroth wrote that Mr. Baraka “has succumbed to the temptation to become a professional Race Man of the most irresponsible sort,” adding, “His loss to literature is more serious than any literary casualty of the Second War.”
By Mr. Baraka’s own later acknowledgment, his writings from this period contained elements of unvarnished anti-Semitism. In “For Tom Postell, Dead Black Poet,” published in his book “Black Magic: Collected Poetry, 1961-1967,” Mr. Baraka wrote: “Smile, jew. Dance, jew. Tell me you love me, jew,” continuing: “I got the extermination blues, jewboys. I got the hitler syndrome figured.”
In 1980 Mr. Baraka, who had by then renounced black nationalism as exclusionary and become, in his words, a “Marxist-Leninist-Maoist,” repudiated those views in an essay in The Village Voice titled “Confessions of a Former Anti-Semite.”
But the issue came sharply to the fore again in 2002. That September, shortly after he was appointed the New Jersey poet laureate, Mr. Baraka gave a public reading of “Somebody Blew Up America,” a poem he had written in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. In it, he suggested that Israel had prior knowledge of the attacks:
Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed
Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers
To stay home that day
Why did Sharon stay away?
Mr. Baraka was roundly criticized, and New Jersey’s governor, James E. McGreevey, called on him to step down. He declined.
In 2003, after it was determined that the state Constitution had no provision for firing the poet laureate, the New Jersey General Assembly voted to abolish the position outright.
Mr. Baraka sued. In 2007, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that New Jersey officials were immune from his suit; later that year, the United States Supreme Court declined to review the case.
That court battle echoed Mr. Baraka’s periodic brushes with the law throughout his adult life. In 1967, he was found guilty of illegal weapons possession during the racially charged Newark riots that year; he later won a new trial, at which he was acquitted.
After divorcing his first wife, Mr. Baraka married Sylvia Robinson, a poet later known as Amina Baraka. In 1979, during an altercation with Ms. Baraka in New York, Mr. Baraka was arrested and charged with assault and resisting arrest. Sentenced to 48 weekends in a halfway house, he used the time to work on a memoir, “The Autobiography of LeRoi Jones,” published in 1984.
Mr. Baraka’s pugnacity was again in the news in 1990, when Rutgers, where he also taught, denied him tenure in its English department. In a widely reported public statement, he indicted unnamed members of the department as “Klansmen” and “Nazis.”
His ire over the years was scarcely reserved for whites. Calling them “backward,” he castigated a series of black mayors in Newark, where he continued to live, for what he saw as overly accommodationist policies, starting with Kenneth A. Gibson, the city’s first, who took office in 1970, and extending to Cory A. Booker, who held the office until he became a United States senator in October.
Mr. Baraka’s life was marked by great loss. In 1984 his sister, Sondra Lee Jones, who called herself Kimako Baraka, was stabbed to death in her New York apartment. In 2003 Shani Baraka, Mr. Baraka’s daughter with his second wife, was shot to death in Piscataway, N.J., along with her partner, Rayshon Holmes.
James Coleman, also known as Ibn El-Amin Pasha, the estranged husband of Shani’s half-sister, Wanda Wilson, was convicted of murdering Ms. Baraka and Ms. Holmes.
In addition to his wife and his son Ras, survivors include three other sons, Obalaji, Amiri Jr. and Ahi; four daughters, Dominique DiPrima, Lisa Jones Brown, Kellie Jones and Maria Jones; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Among Mr. Baraka’s many honors are the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Rockefeller Foundation Award for Drama and membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was seen in a small role as a homeless sage in Warren Beatty’s 1998 political satire, “Bulworth.”
Despite a half-century of accusations that he was a polarizing figure, Mr. Baraka described himself as an optimist, albeit one of a very particular sort.
“I’d say I’m a revolutionary optimist,” he told Newsday in 1990. “I believe that the good guys — the people — are going to win.”
Amiri Baraka (born Everett LeRoi Jones; October 7, 1934 – January 9, 2014), formerly known as LeRoi Jones and Imamu Amear Baraka, was anAmerican writer of poetry, drama, fiction, essays and music criticism. He was the author of numerous books of poetry and 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.
Baraka's poetry and writing has attracted both extreme praise and condemnation. Within the African-American community, some compare him toJames Baldwin and call Baraka one of the most respected and most widely published Black writers of his generation. Others have said his work is an expression of violence, misogyny, homophobia and racism. Baraka's brief tenure as Poet Laureate of New Jersey (2002–03), involved controversy over a public reading of his poem "Somebody Blew Up America?" and accusations ofanti-semitism, and some negative attention from critics, and politicians
Early life (1934–65)
Baraka was born Everett LeRoi Jones in Newark, New Jersey, where he attended Barringer High School. His father, Coyt Leverette Jones, worked as a postal supervisor and lift operator. His mother, Anna Lois (née Russ), was a social worker. In 1967, he adopted the Muslim name Imamu Amear Baraka, which he later changed to Amiri Baraka.
He won a scholarship to Rutgers University in 1951, but a continuing sense of cultural dislocation prompted him to transfer in 1952 to Howard University, which he left without obtaining a degree. His major fields of study were philosophy and religion. Baraka subsequently studied at Columbia University and the New School for Social Research without obtaining a degree.
In 1954, he joined the US Air Force as a gunner, reaching the rank of sergeant. However, his commanding officer received an anonymous letter accusing Baraka of being a communist, which led to the discovery of Soviet writings, his reassignment to gardening duty and subsequently a dishonorable discharge for violation of his oath of duty.
The same year, he moved to Greenwich Village working initially in a warehouse for music records. His interest in jazz began during this period. At the same time he came into contact with avant-garde Beat Generation, Black Mountain poets and New York School poets. In 1958 he married Hettie Cohen, with whom he had two daughters, Kellie Jones (b. 1959) and Lisa Jones(b.1961). He and Hettie founded Totem Press, which published such Beat icons as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. They also jointly founded a quarterly literary magazine Yugen, which ran for eight issues (1958–62). Baraka also worked as editor and critic for the literary and arts journal Kulchur (1960–65). With Diane di Prima he edited the first twenty-five issues (1961–63) of their little magazine The Floating Bear. In the autumn of 1961 he co-founded the New York Poets Theatre with di Prima, choreographers Fred Herko and James Waring, and actor Alan S. Marlowe. He had an extramarital affair with Diane di Prima for several years; their daughter, Dominique di Prima, was born in June 1962.
Baraka visited Cuba in July 1960 with a Fair Play for Cuba Committee delegation and reported his impressions in his essay "Cuba libre". In 1961 Baraka co-authored a Declaration of Conscience in support of Fidel Castro's regime. Baraka also was a member of the Umbra Poets Workshop of emerging Black Nationalist writers (Ishmael Reed, and Lorenzo Thomasamong others) on the Lower East Side (1962–65). In 1961 a first book of poems, Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note,was published. Baraka's article "The Myth of a 'Negro Literature'" (1962) stated that "a Negro literature, to be a legitimate product of the Negro experience in America, must get at that experience in exactly the terms America has proposed for it in its most ruthless identity." He also states in the same work that as an element of American culture, the Negro was entirely misunderstood by Americans. The reason for this misunderstanding and for the lack of black literature of merit was according to Jones:
|“||In most cases the Negroes who found themselves in a position to pursue some art, especially the art of literature, have been members of the Negro middle class, a group that has always gone out of its way to cultivate any mediocrity, as long as that mediocrity was guaranteed to prove to America, and recently to the world at large, that they were not really who they were, i.e., Negroes.||”|
As long as the black writer was obsessed with being an accepted, middle class, Baraka wrote, he would never be able to speak his mind, and that would always lead to failure. Baraka felt that America only made room for only white obfuscators, not black ones.
Baraka's Blues People: Negro Music in White America (1963) is a volume of jazz criticism, especially relating to the beginning of the free jazz movement. His acclaimed, but controversial play Dutchman premiered in 1964 and received an Obie Award the same year.
After the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965, Baraka left his wife and their two children and moved to Harlem. Now a "black cultural nationalist," he broke away from the predominantly white Beats and became very critical of the pacifist and integrationistCivil Rights movement. His revolutionary poetry now became more controversial. A poem such as “Black Art” (1965), according to academic Werner Sollors from Harvard University, expressed his need to commit the violence required to “establish a Black World.” "Black Art" quickly became the major poetic manifesto of the Black Arts Literary Movement and in it, Jones declaimed "we want poems that kill," which coincided with the rise of armed self-defense and slogans such as "Arm yourself or harm yourself" that promoted confrontation with the white power structure. Rather than use poetry as an escapist mechanism, Baraka saw poetry as a weapon of action. His poetry demanded violence against those he felt were responsible for an unjust society.
In 1966, Baraka married his second wife, Sylvia Robinson, who later adopted the name Amina Baraka. In 1967, he lectured at San Francisco State University. The year after, he was arrested in Newark for having allegedly carried an illegal weapon and resisting arrest during the 1967 Newark riots, and was subsequently sentenced to three years in prison. Shortly afterward an appeals court reversed the sentence based on his defense by attorney, Raymond A. Brown. Not long after the 1967 riots, Baraka generated controversy when he went on the radio with a Newark police captain and Anthony Imperiale, a Politician and private business owner, and the three of them blamed the riots on "white-led, so-called radical groups" and "Communists and the Trotskyite persons." That same year his second book of jazz criticism, Black Music, came out, a collection of previously published music journalism, including the seminal Apple Cores columns from Down Beat magazine.
In 1967, Baraka (still Leroi Jones) visited Maulana Karenga in Los Angeles and became an advocate of his philosophy ofKawaida, a multifaceted, categorized activist philosophy that produced the "Nguzo Saba," Kwanzaa, and an emphasis on African names. It was at this time that he adopted the name Imamu Amear Baraka. Imamu is a Swahili title for "spiritual leader" in which is derived from Arabic word Imam (إمام). According to Shaw, he dropped the honorific Imamu and eventually changed Amear (which means "Prince") to Amiri. Baraka means "blessing, in the sense of divine favor." In 1970 he strongly supported Kenneth A. Gibson's candidacy for mayor of Newark; Gibson was elected the city's first Afro-American Mayor. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Baraka courted controversy by penning some strongly anti-Jewish poems and articles, similar to the stance at that time of the Nation of Islam.
Baraka's separation from the Black Arts Movement began because he saw certain black writers – capitulationists, as he called them – countering the Black Arts Movement that he created. He believed that the groundbreakers in the Black Arts Movement were doing something that was new, needed, useful, and black, and those who did not want to see a promotion of black expression were "appointed" to the scene to damage the movement. Around 1974, Baraka distanced himself from Black nationalism and became a Marxist and a supporter of third-world liberation movements. In 1979 he became a lecturer in Stony Brook University's Africana Studies Department. The same year, after altercations with his wife, he was sentenced to a short period of compulsory community service. Around this time he began writing his autobiography. In 1980 he denounced his former anti-semitic utterances, declaring himself an anti-zionist.
During the 1982–83 academic year, Baraka was a visiting professor at Columbia University, where he taught a course entitled "Black Women and Their Fictions." In 1984 he became a full professor at Rutgers University, but was subsequently denied tenure. In 1985, Baraka returned to Stony Brook, eventually becoming professor emeritus of African Studies. In 1987, together with Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison, he was a speaker at the commemoration ceremony for James Baldwin. In 1989 Baraka won anAmerican Book Award for his works as well as a Langston Hughes Award. In 1990 he co-authored the autobiography of Quincy Jones, and 1998 was a supporting actor in Warren Beatty's film Bulworth. In 1996, Baraka contributed to the AIDS benefit album Offbeat: A Red Hot Soundtripproduced by the Red Hot Organization.
In July 2002, Baraka was named Poet Laureate of New Jersey by Governor Jim McGreevey. Baraka held the post for a year mired in controversy and after substantial political pressure and public outrage demanding his resignation. During the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festivalin Stanhope, New Jersey, Baraka read his 2001 poem on the September 11th attacks "Somebody Blew Up America?", which was criticized for anti-Semitism and attacks on public figures. Because there was no mechanism in the law to remove Baraka from the post, the position of state poet laureate was officially abolished by the State Legislature and Governor McGreevey.
Baraka collaborated with hip-hop group The Roots on the song "Something in the Way of Things (In Town)" on their 2002 albumPhrenology.
In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante included Amiri Baraka on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.
In 2003, Baraka's daughter Shani, aged 31, and her lesbian partner, Rayshon Homes, were murdered in the home of Shani's sister, Wanda Wilson Pasha, by Pasha's ex-husband, James Coleman. Prosecutors argued that Coleman shot Shani because she had helped her sister separate from her husband. A New Jersey jury found Coleman (also known as Ibn El-Amin Pasha) guilty of murdering Shani Baraka and Rayshon Holmes, and he was sentenced to 168 years in prison for the 2003 shooting.
Amiri Baraka died on January 9, 2014, at Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey, after being hospitalized in the facility's intensive care unit for one month prior to his death. The cause of death was not reported, but it is mentioned that Baraka had a long struggle with diabetes.
Baraka's writings, and the covers of his early notebooks with large images of erect penises which were on open display in the Greenwich Village cafes where he sat, have generated controversy over the years, particularly his advocacy of rape and violence towards, at various times, women, gay people, white people, and Jews. Author Jerry Gafio Watts contends that Baraka's homophobia and misogyny stem from his efforts to conceal his own history of same-sex encounters. Watts writes that Baraka "knew that popular knowledge of his homosexuality would have undermined the credibility of his militant voice. By becoming publicly known as a hater of homosexuals, Jones was attempting to defuse any claims that might surface linking him with a homosexual past." Critics of his work have alternately described such usage as ranging from being vernacularexpressions of Black oppression to outright examples of the sexism, homophobia, antisemitism, and racism they perceive in his work.
The following is from a 1965 essay:
Most American white men are trained to be fags. For this reason it is no wonder their faces are weak and blank.…The average ofay [white person] thinks of the black man as potentially raping every white lady in sight. Which is true, in the sense that the black man should want to rob the white man of everything he has. But for most whites the guilt of the robbery is the guilt of rape. That is, they know in their deepest hearts that they should be robbed, and the white woman understands that only in the rape sequence is she likely to get cleanly, viciously popped.
In 2009, he was again asked about the quote, and placed it in a personal and political perspective:
Those quotes are from the essays in Home, a book written almost fifty years ago. The anger was part of the mindset created by, first, the assassination of John Kennedy, followed by the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, followed by the assassination of Malcolm X amidst the lynching, and national oppression. A few years later, theassassination of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. What changed my mind was that I became a Marxist, after recognizing classes within the Black community and the class struggle even after we had worked and struggled to elect the first Black Mayor of Newark, Kenneth Gibson.
In July 2002, ten months after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, Baraka wrote a poem entitled "Somebody Blew Up America?" that was controversial and met with harsh criticism. The poem is highly critical of racism in America, and includes angry depictions of public figures such as Trent Lott, Clarence Thomas, and Condoleezza Rice. It also contains lines claiming Israel's involvement in the World Trade Center attacks:
Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombedAnd cracking they sides at the notion
Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers
To stay home that day
Why did Sharon stay away?
Who know why Five Israelis was filming the explosion
Baraka said that he believed Israelis and President George W. Bush had advance knowledge of the September 11 attacks,citing what he described as information that had been reported in the American and Israeli press and on Jordanian television. He denied that the poem is antisemitic, and points to its accusation, which is directed against Israelis, rather than Jews as a people. The Anti-Defamation League though, denounced the poem as antisemitic, though Baraka and his defenders defined his position as anti-Zionism.
After the poem's publication, then-governor Jim McGreevey tried to remove Baraka from the post of Poet Laureate of New Jersey, to which he had been appointed following Gerald Stern in July 2002. McGreevey learned that there was no legal way, according to the law authorizing and defining the position, to remove Baraka. On October 17, 2002, legislation was introduced in the State Senate to abolish the post which was subsequently signed by Governor McGreevey and became effective July 2, 2003. Baraka ceased being poet laureate when the law became effective. In response to legal action filed by Baraka, theUnited States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that state officials were immune from such suits, and in November 2007 the Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear an appeal of the case.
Honors and awards
Baraka served as the second Poet Laureate of New Jersey from July 2002 until the position was abolished on July 2, 2003. In response to the attempts to remove Baraka as the state's Poet Laureate, a nine-member advisory board named him the poet laureate of the Newark Public Schools in December 2002.
Baraka received honors from a number of prestigious foundations, including: fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, the Langston Hughes Award from the City College of New York, the Rockefeller Foundation Award for Drama, an induction into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Before Columbus Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award.
A short excerpt from Amiri Baraka's poetry was selected to used for a permanent installation by artist Larry Kirkland in New York City's Pennsylvania Station.
I have seen many suns
the endless succession of hours
piled upon each other
Carved in marble, this installation features excerpts from the works of several New Jersey poets (from Walt Whitman, William Carlos Williams, to contemporary poets Robert Pinsky and Renée Ashley) and was part of the renovation and reconstruction of the New Jersey Transit section of the station completed in 2002.
- 1961: Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note
- 1964: The Dead Lecturer: Poems
- 1969: Black Magic
- 1970: It's Nation Time
- 1970: Slave Ship
- 1975: Hard Facts
- 1980: New Music, New Poetry (India Navigation)
- 1995: Transbluesency: The Selected Poems of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones
- 1995: Wise, Why’s Y’s
- 1996: Funk Lore: New Poems
- 2003: Somebody Blew Up America & Other Poems
- 2005: The Book of Monk
- 1964: Dutchman
- 1964: The Slave
- 1967: The Baptism and The Toilet
- 1966: A Black Mass
- 1969: Four Black Revolutionary Plays
- 1978: The Motion of History and Other Plays
- 1965: The System of Dante's Hell
- 1967: Tales
- 2006: Tales of the Out & the Gone
- 1963: Blues People: Negro Music in White America
- 1965: Home: Social Essays
- 1968: Black Music
- 1971: Raise Race Rays Raize: Essays Since 1965
- 1979: Poetry for the Advanced
- 1981: reggae or not!
- 1984: Daggers and Javelins: Essays 1974–1979
- 1984: The Autobiography of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka
- 1987: The Music: Reflections on Jazz and Blues
- 2003: The Essence of Reparations
- 1968: Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro-American Writing (co-editor, with Larry Neal)
- 1969: Four Black Revolutionary Plays
- 1983: Confirmation: An Anthology of African American Women (edited with Amina Baraka)
- 1999: The LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka Reader
- 2000: The Fiction of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka
- 2008: Billy Harper: Blueprints of Jazz, Volume 2 (Audio CD)
- One P.M. (1972)
- Fried Shoes Cooked Diamonds (1978) .... Himself
- Black Theatre: The Making of a Movement (1978) .... Himself
- Poetry in Motion (1982)
- Furious Flower: A Video Anthology of African American Poetry 1960–95, Volume II: Warriors (1998) .... Himself
- Through Many Dangers: The Story of Gospel Music (1996)
- Bulworth (1998) .... Rastaman
- Piñero (2001) .... Himself
- Strange Fruit (2002) .... Himself
- Ralph Ellison: An American Journey (2002) .... Himself
- Chisholm '72: Unbought & Unbossed (2004) .... Himself
- Keeping Time: The Life, Music & Photography of Milt Hinton (2004) .... Himself
- Hubert Selby Jr: It/ll Be Better Tomorrow (2005) .... Himself
- 500 Years Later (2005) (voice) .... Himself
- The Ballad of Greenwich Village (2005) .... Himself
- The Pact (2006) .... Himself
- Retour à Gorée (2007) .... Himself
- Polis Is This: Charles Olson and the Persistence of Place (2007)
- Revolution '67 (2007) .... Himself
- Turn Me On (2007) (TV) .... Himself
- Oscene (2007) .... Himself
- Corso: The Last Beat (2008)
- The Black Candle (2008)
- Ferlinghetti: A City Light (2008) .... Himself
- W.A.R. Stories: Walter Anthony Rodney (2009) .... Himself
- Motherland (2010)