Amiri Baraka died today. He was an controversial writer, and is heavily associated with the civil rights and black arts* movements. He is probably best known for his poetry, and was New Jersey’s poet laureate in 2002 and 2003. But Baraka also wrote music criticism and was a prolific playwright. His brilliant play, “Dutchman,” premiered in 1964 and received an Obie Award. Baraka, who was born Everett LeRio Jones, was also a professor who taught at various universities, including Yale and Columbia.
It’s impossible to find any one piece of work that illustrates the depth of Baraka’s work, but this video, in which Baraka reads “Dope,” gives us an idea of how Baraka was able to connect race, Christianity, economics, and domestic and foreign policy in a historical framework.
Baraka was hospitalized in December. He died today at the age of 79.
*Post has been updated since publication.