Thursday, January 9, 2014

Amiri Baraka (1934-2014)

[Amiri Baraka (formerly known as LeRoi Jones) at the Newark Museum, Newark, New Jersey, 2013 - Photo by Amun]

Sad to have to report the news today (Thursday January 9) of the death of the great African-American poet, playwright, and social activist Imamu Amiri Baraka. He had been hospitalized since December 21. He was 79 years old.

Here's his New York Times obituary

Here's the New Jersey Star-Ledger

Here's the LA Times obituary

Here's the Washington Post

Here's Neda Ulaby's NPR story

More, many more tributes and reviews of his extraordinary career to follow. America has lost one of its great men of letters and a powerful, necessary, unintimidated voice.


  1. One comment of Amiri Baraka's that has stuck with me was about Allen. Somewhere in the Naropa archives, he says something like "Allen, who is crazier and smarter (?) than anyone even knows...". I'm getting the exact quote wrong but it was an intimate revelation that always stuck with me. Naropa's archives captures lots of great A. Baraka poems, lectures and comments of course.

  2. There's the great story (I don't think that it's apocryphal) about Allen, after finding out that he was terminally ill, calling Amiri Baraka and asking Baraka if he needed money. Allen, ever generous.

    One thing that always sort of puzzled me. Even DECADES after Baraka had left his old name (LeRoi Jones) behind, most media references continued to write "Amiri Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones)." Why? No one ever wrote "Marilyn Monroe (formerly Norma Jean)." Or, "Muhammad Ali (formerly Cassius Clay)."