Legendary New Jersey playwright, poet, critic and social activist Amiri Baraka was born Everett LeRoi Jones in Newark, New Jersey on October 7, 1934. Baraka was a literary genius who graduated from high school two years early as a gifted student. He would continue his education at New York University and Howard University. But this was only the beginning of a long and storied road for Baraka.
His works inspired three generations of aspiring writers and activists alike. In 1964, his play Dutchman, which explored race and gender, won the Obie Award for best American play. Baraka was instrumental in forming the Black Arts Movement. Though short-lived, the collective included Gwendolyn Brooks, Eldridge Cleaver, Gil-Scott Heron, Nikki Giovanni, Ishmael Reed and Quincy Troup. Amiri Baraka taught at Rutgers University, George Washington University, Yale University, San Francisco State University, Columbia and the New School for Social Research. He retired from academia in 1994. But Amiri Baraka remained a resident of Newark throughout his life and continued creating artistically and would remain a political second poet laureate before the title was stripped from him for his controversial poem about the 9/11 attacks titled Somebody Blew Up America.
Baraka had been hospitalized in ICU at Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey for an undisclosed illness since December 2013. He is survived by his children Ras Baraka, Amiri Baraka, Ahi Baraka, Obalaji Baraka, Kellie Jones, Lisa Jones, Dominique DiPrima and Maria Jones. He was 79-years-old.