Amiri Baraka (born Everett LeRoi Jones; 1934-2014) was an anti-Semitic, black nationalist poet. He was Poet Laureate of New Jersey from 2002 to 2004. He described himself as a "Third World Marxist-Leninist."
Life and Works
Baraka was born to a postal supervisor and a social worker in New Jersey on October 7, 1934, and attended Rutgers University, Howard University, and Columbia University. He served in the Air Force during the Second World War but quit to develop an interest in Beat Poetry. Baraka's poetry contains many anti-Semitic and anti-white rantings. It is also laden with profanity, misspellings, incorrect punctuation and improper diction. Overall, his poetry looks more like gangsta rap than traditional poems. Baraka states he is anti-Zionist (i.e., he denounces the nation of Israel and its policies) and not anti-Semitic.
His first play, Dutchman, speaks of a black intellectual's being murdered by a white woman, and as his work continued, it grew increasingly Anti-Semitic, homophobic, Marxist and hateful. He also studied jazz music and considered jazz written by blacks to be superior to all other music, including jazz written by whites.
Baraka was at the center of a controversy during his Poet Laureate tenure in 2003 over his poem "Somebody Blew Up America." In this poem, Baraka blames Israel under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for the 9/11 attacks. He also maligns Colin Powell, Clarence Thomas, Ward Connerly and Condoleezza Rice in this same poem. Then-governor Jim McGreevey criticized Baraka's poem and attempted to remove him from the post, but found there was no legal way to do so. In 2003, legislation was passed allowing the governor to abolish the title of New Jersey Poet Laureate, which he then did. Baraka sued to reclaim the title but the court ruled that state officials were immune from such suits.
He died on January 9, 2014.
- "Baraka, Amiri." Encyclopedia Britannica.