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Prolific Playwright, Poet & Novelist Amiri Baraka Dies at 79

Prolific Playwright, Poet & Novelist Amiri Baraka Dies at 79
Amiri Baraka
Playwright Amiri Baraka passed away January 9 at age 79.

Revolutionary writer Amiri Baraka, who wrote the acclaimed play Dutchman under the name LeRoi Jones, died on January 9 at Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey, The New York Times reports. He was 79 years old.

Born Everett Leroy Jones, the writer premiered his controversial and groundbreaking play Dutchman in 1964 at off-Broadway’s Cherry Lane Theatre. His additional plays include The Slave, J-E-L-L-O, The Baptism and the Toilet, A Black Mass and The Motion of History and Other Plays. In 1967, Baraka adapted Dutchman into a film, starring Shirley Knight and Al Freeman Jr.

A prolific novelist and poet, Baraka’s works include The System of Dante’s Hell, Tales, Tales of the Out & the Gone, The Book of Monk, Somebody Blew Up America & Other Poems, Hard Facts, Black Magic, It’s Nation Time, Slave Ship, Hard Facts, Prevace to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note and Wise, Why’s Y’s.

The writer converted to Islam in the 1960s and took on the Bantuized Arabic name Imamu Ameer Baraka, later changed to Amiri Baraka. His wife, Sylvia Robinson, changed her name to Amina Baraka.

Baraka has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as the Rockefeller Foundation Award for Drama, the Langston Hughes Award and the Before Columbus Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award. He served as the Poet Laureate of New Jersey from 2002 to 2003, and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Baraka is survived by his wife and three sons, Obalaji, Amiri Jr. and Ras.

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