Activist Poet-Playwright Amiri Baraka Dies at 79

Baraka was known for his race manifestos and music criticism.

Posted: 01/09/2014 05:04 PM EST
Activist Poet-Playwright Amiri Baraka Dies at 79

NEW YORK (AP) — Poet and playwright Amiri Baraka has died at age 79, his booking agent said.

Celeste Bateman told The Associated Press that Baraka, who had been hospitalized since last month, died Thursday at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.

Baraka was a Beat poet, black nationalist and Marxist revolutionary known for his blues-based, fist-shaking manifestos, from the racial fury of "Dutchman" to the Sept. 11 diatribe, "Somebody Blew Up America."

As eclectic as he was prolific, his influences including Kafka, Ray Bradbury and Mao Zedong, Baraka wrote poems, short stories, essays, plays, music criticism and jazz operas. He was called a genius, a prophet, a black hero in the pantheon with Frederick Douglass and Richard Wright. He also was denounced as bitter, buffoonish, homophobic, and a demagogue.

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(Photo: Julian C. Wilson/AP Photo, File)