Imamu Amiri Baraka

Formerly Leroi Jones, 1934-2014). American poet and playwright. Dutchman, a taut one-act play, part realistic, part ritualistic, crystalizing the conflicts between white and black cultures, established Baraka as an important force in stimulating black playwriting and production. Slave Ship (1967), relies on music and action as much as language to unfold its haunting story. Baraka’s theater is aggressive and provocative, yet lyrical in its theatrical effect. His prolific output of essays and poetry includes Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note (1961) The Dead Lecturer (1964), Black Magic (1969) and Hard Facts (1976); his work is collected in Selected Plays and Prose and Selected Poetry (both 1979). Two other works appeared in 1979: a collection of poetry AM/TRAK and Spring Song. Reggae or Not, prose writings, appeared in 1981. Baraka’s later works have become increasingly polemical and separatist, causing many white liberals to desert him. He also published The Music: Reflections on Jazz and Blues (1987), Shy’s Wise: The Griot’s Tale (1994), and Jesse Jackson and Black People (1994).”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

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