Amiri Baraka (born Everett LeRoi Jones; October 7, 1934 – January 9, 2014), formerly known as LeRoi Jones and Imamu Amear Baraka,was an African-American writer of poetry, drama, fiction, essays and music criticism. He was the author of numerous books of poetry and taught at a number of universities, including the State University of New York at Buffalo and the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He received the PEN Open Book Award, formerly known as the Beyond Margins Award, in 2008 forTales of the Out and the Gone.
Baraka was well known for his strident social criticism, often writing in an incendiary style that made it difficult to some audiences and critics to respond with objectivity to his works. Throughout most of his career his method in poetry, drama, fiction, and essays was confrontational, calculated to shock and awaken audiences to the political concerns of black Americans. For decades, Baraka was one of the most prominent voices in the world of American literature.
Baraka incited controversy throughout his career. He was praised for speaking out against oppression as well as accused of fostering hate. Critical opinion has been sharply divided between those who agree, with Dissent contributor Stanley Kaufman, that Baraka’s race and political moment have created his celebrity, and those who feel that Baraka stands among the most important writers of the twentieth century. In theAmerican Book Review, Arnold Rampersad counted Baraka with Phyllis Wheatley, Frederick Douglass, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, and Ralph Ellison “as one of the eight figures . . . who has significantly affected the course of African-American literary culture.
His first play, A Good Girl Is Hard to Find, was produced at Sterington House in Montclair, New Jersey, that same year. Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note, Baraka’s first published collection of poems appeared in 1961. M.L. Rosenthal wrote in The New Poets: American and British Poetry since World War II that these poems show Baraka’s “natural gift for quick, vivid imagery and spontaneous humor.” Rosenthal also praised the “sardonic or sensuous or slangily knowledgeable passages” that fill the early poems.
- Roy Campbell – 2 October 1901 – died 23 April 1957
- Henry L. Van Dyke, Jr. – 3 October 1928 – died 22 December 2011
- Godfrey Mwakikagile- 4 October 1949
- Mafika Gwala – 5 October 1946 – died 5 September 2014
- Edward Paul Jones – 5 October 1950
- Arthur Maimane – 5 October 1932 – died 28 June 2005
- Shadreck Chikoti – 7 October 1979
- Amiri Baraka -7 October 1934 –died 9 January 2014
- Jesse C Jackson – 8 October 1941
- Sol Plaatje – 9 October 1876 – died 19 June 1932
- James H. McClure – 9 October 1939
- Léopold Sédar Senghor – 9 October 1906 –died 20 December 2001
- Ibrahima Aya – 10 October 1967
- Kenule “Ken” Beeson Saro Wiwa – 10 October 1941 – died 10 November 1995