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.