This Day in Black History: Oct. 7, 1934

Amiri Baraka

This Day in Black History: Oct. 7, 1934

On Oct. 7, 1934, playwright, poet, critic and activist Amiri Baraka was born.

Published October 7, 2014

On Oct. 7, 1934, playwright, poet, critic and activist Amiri Baraka, formerly known as Everett LeRoi Jones, was born. 

Baraka decided to change his name after the assassination of Malcolm X, and he was a prominent voice in the African-American community. Baraka graduated high school two years early and went on to New York University and then Howard University. Baraka later served in the Air Force for two years until he was caught reading communist texts and was discharged. Later, he moved to New York and attended Columbia University for graduate school. 

In 1958, he founded a poetry magazine called Yugen with his ex-wife, Hettie Cohen. Baraka co-edited The Floating Bear and published Blues People: The Negro Experience in White America and the Music That Developed From It and the play Dutchman. 

“I can see now that the dramatic form began to interest me because I wanted to go beyond poetry. I wanted some kind of action literature," Baraka states in his autobiography.

Later, the activist began to lead the Black Arts Movement, which showcased the voices of African-Americans through different art forms. These art forms challenged white power structures and strengthened an African-American cultural identity.

Baraka died on Jan. 9, 2014, in Newark, New Jersey.

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

Written by Melissa Quinones


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