Playwright, Poet and Activist Amiri Baraka Passes Away at 79

The New York Times reports today, January 9, 2014, playwright, critic, activist, and one of the most prominent and controversial African American voices in the world of American letters, Amiri Baraka, has passed away after weeks of failing health. He was 79.

Baraka was one of the most influential members of the Black Arts movement of the '60s and '70s.

His poetry collections include Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note, Black Magic, It's Nation Time, Slave Ship, Transbluesency: The Selected Poems of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones, the controversial Somebody Blew Up America & Other Poems (following 9/11) and, most recently, The Book of Monk.

Dutchman, The Baptism and The Toilet, A Black Mass and The Motion of History and Other Plays are among Baraka's plays.

Among his non-fiction works are Blues People: Negro Music in White America, Raise Race Rays Raize: Essays Since 1965, The Essence of Reparations and more.

On February 17, 1965 Baraka read his essay "The Revolutionary Theater" at the Overseas Press Club, following the release of his Obie Award-winning The Dutchman and just four days before the assassination of Malcolm X. WNYC has the audio of the speech that catapulted Baraka from charismatic Greenwich Village maverick into a radicalized black nationalist in Harlem in a pivitol time for the country at large. Click HERE to listen.

Baraka, who taught courses at both taught courses at Columbia University and Rutgers University, was named Poet Laureate of New Jersey in 2002.

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