Amiri Baraka died today at the age of 79 after battling an undisclosed illness. Indeed, the world has lost one of its greatest literary giants. While Baraka’s work is widely known and read, there may be a few things that many may not know about him.
Below are ten facts about the writer and activist.
1. He was born Everett LeRoi Jones, in 1934 in Newark, N.J., but changed his name to Imamu Amiri Baraka after the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965.
2. Baraka lead the Black Arts Movement, which encouraged Black writers to take control of the economic power of their own work.
3. While Baraka’s work is known for its Black nationalist tonality, he actually started his literary career in the Beats poetry movement in Greenwich Village but switched gears in 1965 and declared himself a Black cultural nationalist.
4. Rutgers University awarded him a full scholarship in 1951, but he left the institution without earning a degree. He also attended Columbia University and the New School; he did not earn a degree from either school.
5. In 1951, Baraka enlisted into the U.S. Air Force and was promoted to sergeant, but was given a dishonorable discharge for violation of his oath of duty, reportedly for reading communist writings.
6. Scholar Molefi Kete Asante included Amiri Baraka on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.
7. Baraka was New Jersey’s first poet laureate in 2002 and 2003, but after he delivered his poem “Somebody Blew Up America?” in which he accused the U.S. government and Israel of orchestrating Sept. 11, just ten months after the attacks, calls for his resignation dogged him. Then-Governor Jim McGreevey tried to remove Baraka from the post, but could not legally do so. Instead, the New Jersey state legislature abolished the position, effectively removing Baraka from the post.
8. He began teaching at the State University of New York-Stony Brook in 1980, retiring from its African Studies department in 1994. Baraka also taught at Rutgers University, George Washington University, Yale University, San Francisco State University, Columbia and the New School for Social Research.
9. There are far too many literary awards on Baraka’s mantelpiece to mention, but an American Book Award, which he won in 2010, is one of his most prestigious.
10. In the 1970s, he lead an effort to to build Kawaida Towers, a planned 100-acre housing project that was meant to embody the Black Power movement. The project never came to fruition.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (6/18-6/24)
25 photos Launch gallery
1. Me & the homie @jaleelwhite #RujohnFoundation Happy to be in Jamaica! Good times
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5. Good Morning. Early day in Detroit! Making press rounds for @thebossnetwork's Ladies That Lead Tour. Thank you @traycemadre and @colourbynumbr for my glam.
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6. POWER the best show on TV @djenvy, Queens we so big out here. #EFFENVODKA #FRIGO
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7. They said u lost a step, wasn't explosive as once was, the best days was in the real view, questioned your drive, your leadership, your commitment, you don't have killer instinct, going back home is the worst mistake in your career, he got the coach fired, players traded, won't work between him and Kyrie, Him and Kev won't work, love your teammates to much, there's no way he can deliver a championship in his hometown, etc etc etc.... But guess what THATS NONE OF MY BUSINESS #StriveForGreatness #ThisOneIsForTheLand #PutSomeRespeckOnMyName Hahahaha!!! Yes sir
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8. Oooooh weeee this man right here is responsible for at least three of our four babies!! #JOE ❤❤❤🎤 #rnb #king #voicelikebutter #ForPeetesSake
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9. Hanging with my @abcnetwork family! @abcunclebuck tonite y'all check us out ! @anthonyanderson @traceeellisross
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10. My broski ( @sayeedshahidi ) and I are on Top 5 Live on @go90 at 5 (which is super duper close)! Make sure to tune in :) #UncleBuck #Blackish
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11. Lights out💤 #GoodNight
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12. Late nights mornings
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13. Ran into the lovely talented @siedahgarrett on this brutiful favvuz deh!
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14. #halal #love #thedargans #kattwilliamsSHOW #mashallah when that Jennah piece HIT!! @sweetjennahcollection glasses by @baddieglamaccessories LIZ 😍 @dynamiteko top @dazzledmv and jeans @thevision414 and shoes: @louboutinworld
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15. Big Hair and Optical Illusions #OceanDrive #MiamiLiving #coverparty
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16. MAMA and THE SAVAGES ... ⚓️ #supportyourlocalgirlgang
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17. From the bottom of my ❤️, thank you new followers & old! & hello fellow night owls! #grateful #racheltrue #naturalhair #curlyhair #curlygirl #healthyhair
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18. I feel so grateful because I met these amazing young minds, visiting from Houston TX, during their college tour stop today at #usc.These students are ALL extraordinary and embody academic excellence so I'm humbled to have shared a few moments with them to applaud and celebrate their bright futures ahead! Thank you @EmergeFellows for inviting me to speak and blessing me with your love and attention this afternoon!
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19. Happy Fathers Day Pops. U taught me how to be a man. Lessons of love, hard work & gratefulness. Sorry the fishing didn't stick. LOL. I Love U!
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20. Sky Zone and Ice Cream! Best Fathers Day Ever!! Photo credit @mariahcarey
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21. Look what finally came in the mail 😎 #mtvmovieawards2016 💥+🌽! #straightouttacompton
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22. Claudia Jordan: ....
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23. 'Member that time I almost knocked a bajillion dollar camera off the car? Really? Yeah, me neither! #Greenleaf Episode 2 comin atcha!
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24. Full of love. #birthday #Cabo
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25. Oh hey! Look who just joined Snapchat
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