Amiri Baraka, 79, Author and Activist

Playwright, poet laureate, and political activist Amiri Baraka died Thursday at Beth Israel Medical Center after weeks of failing health. He was 79.

A Newark, New Jersey native formerly known as Everett Leroi Jones, Amiri Baraka published dozens of poems, essays and works of non-fiction.

He led the Black Arts Movement, which involved authors including as Gwendolyn Brooks, Eldridge Cleaver, Gil-Scott Heron, Nikki Giovanni, Ishmael Reed and Quincy Troupe.

Baraka attended both New York University and Howard University, and later served in the Air Force for two years. He gained recognition for his play, “Dutchman” and in 1963 wrote “Blues People: The Negro Experience in White America and the Music That Developed from it.

During his career, he taught at several universities including Rutgers, George Washington, Yale and San Francisco State. His awards include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, a Rockefeller Foundation Award for Drama, and the Langston Hughes Award from City College of New York.

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