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Amiri Baraka

African-American writer
Amiri Baraka

Amiri Baraka (October 7, 1934 – January 9, 2014), previously known as LeRoi Jones and Imamu Amear Baraka, was an African-American writer of poetry, drama, fiction, essays and music criticism.


  • The Black Artist's role in America is to aid in the destruction of America as he knows it. His role is to report and reflect so precisely the nature of the society, and of himself, in that society, that other men will be moved by the exactness of his rendering, and if they are black men, grow strong through this moving, having seen their own strength, and weakness, and if they are white men, tremble, curse, and go mad, because they will be drenched with the filth of their evil.
  • …you cannot stop struggling just because you’ve got a black guy walking around saying some stuff. Just because his skin is your color don’t mean his brain is the same as yours; if you’re going to bomb Libya you’re nuts. So it’s a continual struggle to raise the level of social consciousness in the country. Not only for black people but for everybody who needs that change.
  • I guess I was the most unbohemian of all bohemians. My bohemianism consisted of not wanting to get involved with the stupid stuff that I thought people wanted you to get involved with — ... namely America...
  • …So he gave me an Arab name; he gave me the name Amir Barakat. But I didn't want an Arab name ... [so] I took the name and Swahili-ized it and Bantu-ized it, and changed it from Amir to Amiri and from Barakat to Baraka to make it a Swahili name — the same kind of name you'd find in Tanzania or Uganda or Kenya. Now, of course I'm no longer in a cultural nationalist movement, but I'd be the only one in my family with an American name.

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