Amiri Baraka (b. 1934, as Everett LeRoi Jones) was a central figure of the Black Arts movement of the 1960s. His writing is known for its confrontational methods that highlight the difficulties of the black American experience.
Various social and political movements have influenced Baraka's writing throughout his career: the Beats of Greenwich Village in the 1950s, the Black Nationalist movement in the 1960s, and Marxism in the 1970s. Baraka began his writing career creating experimental poetry with Allen Ginsberg and Frank O'Hara. He founded Yugen magazine in 1958, as well as Totem Press, to provide an outlet for new verse. With the rise of the civil rights movement, he began to pull away from his Beat influences and to embrace and express his black identity more directly. Later, Baraka befriended a number of artists and writers on a visit to Cuba in 1959. As a result of this visit, a new awareness of his ethnicity and a concern for developing nations became apparent in his writing.
In the mid-1960s, Baraka went on to write fiction, solidifying his Black Nationalism with Tales (1967), a collection of short stories in which violent action figures prominently as a means for social change. In the 1970s, however, Baraka came to view the Black Nationalist movement as destructive and counterproductive. He turned his efforts toward the goals of Marxism, and his writing since then has reflected his socialist views.
Baraka's play Dutchman, in which a middle-class black man and white woman engage in a deep and raw conversation about sex and race on a subway, won the Village Voice Obie Award in 1964. His innovative use of symbolism and his commentary on the status of blacks in America have made Dutchman an often anthologized and performed play. Baraka's other plays include The Baptism (1964), The Toilet (1964), The Slave (1964), The Death of Malcolm X (1969), and The Motion History (1977). In addition to his plays, Baraka has published numerous collections of poetry, essay anthologies, studies of black music, and a novel.
Poems - 15 in all
Monday in B-Flat
Notes For a Speech
In Memory of Radio
Balboa, the Entertainer
A Poem for Speculative Hipsters
Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note
In the Funk World
Somebody Blew Up America