ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



The Essence of Reparations  is Baraka’s first published collection of essays in book

form radically exploring what is sure to become a twenty-first century watershed

movement of Black peoples to the interrelated issues of racism, national oppression, colonialism,

neo-colonialism, self-determination and national and human liberation . . .



Books by Amiri Baraka

Tales of the Out & the Gone  / The Essence of Reparations / Somebody Blew Up America & Other Poems  / Blues People

 Autobiography of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka / Selected Poetry of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones / Black Music

*   *   *   *   *

Amiri Baraka 

(LeRoi Jones)

Poet, Dramatist, Music Critic

A Brief Bio


Amiri Baraka, born in 1934, in Newark, New Jersey, USA, is the author of over 40 books of essays, poems, drama, and music history and criticism, a poet icon and revolutionary political activist who has recited poetry and lectured on cultural and political issues extensively in the USA, the Caribbean, Africa, and Europe. 

With influences on his work ranging from musical orishas such as Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Theophilus Monk, and Sun Ra to the Cuban Revolution, Malcolm X and world revolutionary movements, Baraka is renown as the founder of the Black Arts Movement in Harlem in the 1960s that became, though short-lived, the virtual blueprint for a new American theater aesthetics. The movement and his published and performance work, such as the signature study on African-American music, Blues People (1963) and the play Dutchman (1963) practically seeded “the cultural corollary to black nationalism” of that revolutionary American milieu. 

Other titles range from Selected Poetry of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones (1979), to The Music (1987), a fascinating collection of poems and monographs on Jazz and Blues authored by Baraka and his wife and poet Amina, and his boldly sortied essays, The Essence of Reparations (2003). 

The Essence of Reparations  is Baraka’s first published collection of essays in book form radically exploring what is sure to become a twenty-first century watershed movement of Black peoples to the interrelated issues of racism, national oppression, colonialism, neo-colonialism, self-determination and national and human liberation, which he has long been addressing creatively and critically. It has been said that Amiri Baraka is committed to social justice like no other American writer. He has taught at Yale, Columbia, and the State University of New York at Stony Brook. 

Somebody Blew Up America & Other Poems is Baraka’s first collection of poems published in the Caribbean and includes the title poem that has headlined him in the media in ways rare to poets and authors. The recital of the poem “that mattered” engaged the poet warrior in a battle royal with the very governor of New Jersey and with a legion of detractors demanding his resignation as the state’s Poet Laureate because of Somebody Blew Up America’s provocatively poetic inquiry (in a few lines of the poem) about who knew beforehand about the New York City World Trade Center bombings in 2001. 

The poem’s own detonation caused the author’s photo and words to be splashed across the pages of New York’s Amsterdam News and the New York Times and to be featured on CNN–to name a few US city, state and national and international media. 

Baraka lives in Newark with his wife and author Amina Baraka; they have five children and head up the word-music ensemble, Blue Ark: The Word Ship and co-direct Kimako’s Blues People, the “artspace” housed in their theater basement for some fifteen years. 

His awards and honors include an Obie, the American Academy of Arts & Letters award, the James Weldon Johnson Medal for contributions to the arts, Rockefeller Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts grants, Professor Emeritus at the State university of New York at Stony Brook, and the Poet Laureate of New Jersey.

*   *   *   *   *

Amiri Baraka

Amiri Baraka studied philosophy and religious studies at Rutgers University, Columbia University and Howard University without obtaining a degree. In 1954 he joined the US Air Force reaching the rank of sergeant. After an anonymous letter to his commanding officer accusing him of being a communist led to the discovery of Soviet writings, Baraka was put on gardening duty and given a dishonorable discharge for violation of his oath of duty. The same year he moved to Greenwich Village working initially in a warehouse for music records. From this period stems his interest in jazz. At the same time he came into contact with the incipient movement of Beat Poets that was going to have a powerful influence on his early poetry. In 1958, Jones founded Totem Press, which published such Beat icons as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. The same year he married Hettie Cohen and with her became joint editor of the Yugen literary magazine (until 1963).

In 1960 he went to Cuba, a visit that initiated his transformation into a politically active artist. In 1961 Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note was published, followed in 1963 by Blues People: Negro Music in White America – to this day one of the most influential volumes of jazz criticism, especially in regard to the then beginning Free Jazz movement. His play Dutchman premiered in 1964 and the same year he won an Obie Award for it. After the killing of Malcolm X he broke with the Beat Poets, left his wife and their two children and moved to Harlem because, at the time, he thought of himself as a black cultural nationalist. [Read Baraka Changes African Nationalist Political Climate]

*   *   *   *   *

Amiri Baraka, born Everett LeRoi Jones in Newark, New Jersey, on October 7, 1934, Amiri Baraka is today a beloved poet, an elder statesman of the African-American community. Presently, politicians in New Jersey are using legislation to remove him from the appointed position of Poet Laureate of New Jersey. He wrote a poem entitled “Somebody Blew Up America” and caused a rather hostile reaction by the Ant-Defamation League (ADL). This right-wing Zionist response is thus being supported by conservative New Jersey senators in order to court the Jewish vote.

Baraka’s father, Colt LeRoy Jones, was a postal supervisor; Anna Lois Jones, his mother, was a social worker. He attended Rutgers University for two years, then transferred to Howard University, where in 1954 he earned his B.A. in English. He served in the Air Force from 1954 until 1957, then moved to the Lower East Side of Manhattan. There he joined a loose circle of Greenwich Village artists, musicians, and writers. In 1958 he married Hettie Cohen and began co-editing the avant-garde literary magazine Yugen with her. That year he also founded Totem Press, which first published works by Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and others.

In 1961, Baraka published his first volume of poetry, entitled Preface to a Twenty-Volume Suicide Note. From 1961 to 1963 he was co-editor, with Diane Di Prima, of The Floating Bear, a literary newsletter. During this period Baraka began his growth in racial consciousness which was reflected in two plays, The Slave and The Toilet, both written in 1962. 

The following year (1963), Baraka published the much respected Blues People: Negro Music in White America and also published and introduced an edited volume entitled, The Moderns: An Anthology of New Writing in America. On March 24, 1964, his controversial play Dutchman  was produced at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York. His reputation as a playwright gained greater credibility when the Dutchman won an Obie Award (for “best off-Broadway play”) and was made into a film.

Baraka reached a crisis in his life in 1965 with the assassination of Malcolm X. His marriage also ended. He moved to Harlem and founded the Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School. This group produced plays that emphasized a cultural blackness and directed toward consciousness raising of a black audience. Because of the lack of needed support this group soon dissolved. and Baraka moved back to Newark. In 1967 he married African-American poet Sylvia Robinson (now known as Amina Baraka). That year he also founded the Spirit House Players, which produced, among other works, two of Baraka’s plays against police brutality: Police and Arm Yrself or Harm Yrself.

In 1968, he co-edited with Larry Neal Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro-American Writing and his play Home on the Range was performed as a benefit for the Black Panther Party. That same year (1968–the year of the nationwide rebellion that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.) he became a Muslim, changing his name to Imamu Amiri Baraka. (“Imamu” means “spiritual leader.”) He assumed leadership of his own black Muslim organization, named Kawaida. 

From 1968 to 1975, Baraka was chairman of the Committee for Unified Newark, a Black United Front organization. In 1969, his Great Goodness of Life became part of the successful “Black Quartet” off-Broadway, and his play Slave Ship was widely reviewed. Baraka was a founder and chairman of the Congress of African People, a national Pan-Africanist organization with chapters in fifteen cities, and he was one of the chief organizers of the National Black Political Convention, which convened in Gary, Indiana, in 1972 to organize a more unified political stance for African-Americans.

In 1974 Baraka adopted a Marxist Leninist philosophy and dropped the spiritual title “Imamu.” In 1983, he and Amina Baraka edited Confirmation: An Anthology of African-American Women, which won an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation, and in 1987 they published The Music: Reflections on Jazz and Blues. The Autobiography of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka  was published in 1984.

Amiri Baraka’s numerous literary prizes and honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Rockefeller Foundation Award for Drama, the Langston Hughes Award from The City College of New York, and a lifetime achievement award from the Before Columbus Foundation. He has taught poetry at the New School for Social Research in New York, literature at the University of Buffalo, and drama at Columbia University. He has also taught at San Francisco State University, Yale University and George Washington University. Since 1985 he has been a professor of Africana Studies at the State University of New York in Stony Brook. He is co-director, with his wife, of Kimako’s Blues People, a community arts space. Amiri and Amina Baraka live in Newark, New Jersey.


A Selected Bibliography


Preface to a Twenty-Volume Suicide Note (1961)

The Dead Lecturer (1964)

Black Art (1969)

Black Magic: Collected Poetry 1961-1967 (1969)

It’s Nation Time (1970)

Spirit Reach (1972)

Selected Poetry of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones  (1979)

Confirmation: An Anthology of African-American Women (1983)

The Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka Reader (1991) ed. William J. Harris

Wise Why’s Y’s: The Griot’s Tale (1995)

Transbluesency: The Selected Poetry of Amiri Baraka/Leroi Jones (1961-1995) (1995)

Funk Lore: New Poems (1984-1995) (1996)

Somebody Blew Up America & Other Poems (2003)




Black Music

Home: Social Essays (1966)

Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro-American Writing (1969)

Raise, Race, Rays, Raze: Essays Since 1965 (1971)

Daggers and Javelins: Essays, 1974-1979 (1984)

Autobiography of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka (1984)

The Music: Reflections on Jazz and Blues (1987)

Conversations with Amiri Baraka (1994)

Eulogies (1996) ed. Michael Schwartz

Jesse Jackson & Black People (1996)



Dutchman and The Slave: Two Plays (1964)

The Baptism and The Toilet (1967)

Arm Yrself or Harm Yrself (1967)

Home on the Range (1968)

Police (1968)

The Death of Malcolm X (1969)

Rockgroup (1969)

Four Black Revolutionary Plays, All Praises to the Black Man (1969)

Junkies Are Full of (SHHH…) (1970)

Jello (1970)

BA-RA-KA (1972)

Black Power Chant (1972)

The Motion of History, and Other Plays (1978) includes Slave Ship: A Historical Pageant and S-1

Selected Plays and Prose of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones (1979)

The Sidney Poet Heroical, in 29 Scenes (1979)

General Hag’s Skeezag (1992)



The System of Dante’s Hell (1965)

Tales (1967)

Three Books by Imamu Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones) (1975)– includes The System of Dante’s Hell, Tales, and The Dead Lecturer.

*   *   *   *   *


Amiri Baraka The Politics and Art of a Black IntellectualBy Jerry Watts

Amiri Baraka, formerly known as LeRoi Jones, became known as one of the most militant, anti-white black nationalists of the 1960s Black Power movement. An advocate of Black Cultural Nationalism, Baraka supported the rejection of all things white and western. He helped found and direct the influential Black Arts movement which sought to move black writers away from western aesthetic sensibilities and toward a more complete embrace of the black world. Except perhaps for James Baldwin, no single figure has had more of an impact on black intellectual and artistic life during the last forty years.

In this groundbreaking and comprehensive study, the first to interweave Baraka’s art and political activities, Jerry Watts takes us from his early immersion in the New York scene through the most dynamic period in the life and work of this controversial figure. Watts situates Baraka within the various worlds through which he travelled including Beat Bohemia, Marxist-Leninism, and Black Nationalism. In the process, he convincingly demonstrates how the 25 years between Baraka’s emergence in 1960 and his continued influence in the mid-1980s can also be read as a general commentary on the condition of black intellectuals during the same time. Continually using Baraka as the focal point for a broader analysis, Watts illustrates the link between Baraka’s life and the lives of other black writers trying to realize their artistic ambitions, and contrasts him with other key political intellectuals of the time. In a chapter sure to prove controversial, Watts links Baraka’s famous misogyny to an attempt to bury his own homosexual past.

A work of extraordinary breadth, Amira Baraka is a powerful portrait of one man’s lifework and the pivotal time it represents in African-American history. Informed by a wealth of original research, it fills a crucial gap in the lively literature on black thought and history and will continue to be a touchstone work for some time to come.

*   *   *   *   *


Daggers and Javelins: Essays, 1974-1979

By Amiri Baraka

The essays and lectures collected in Daggers and Javelins: Essays, 1974-1979 represent Amiri Baraka’s vigorous attempt to identify an African American revolutionary tradition that could parallel anticolonial struggles in Third World countries of Africa, Asia, and South America. Baraka applies a Marxist analysis to African American literature in these essays.

Having become disappointed with the progress of the Black Power movement and its emphasis on grassroots electoral politics, Baraka came to Marxism with the zeal of a new convert.

“The essays of the earliest part of this period,” he writes, “are overwhelmingly political in the most overt sense.” While some of the essays in Daggers and Javelins address jazz, film, and writers of the Harlem Renaissance, all of them do so with the purpose of assessing what Baraka calls their potential to contribute to a revolutionary struggle.

In “The Revolutionary Tradition in Afro-American Literature,” Baraka distinguishes between the authentic folk and vernacular expression of African American masses and the poetry and prose produced by middle-class writers in imitation of prevailing literary standards. Considering the slave narratives of Frederick Douglass and others as the beginnings of a genuine African American literature, he criticizes works that promote individualism or are merely “a distraction, an ornament.” Similarly, “Afro-American Literature and Class Struggle” and other essays consider how the economic structure of society affects the production and the appreciation of art. “Notes on the History of African/Afro-American Culture” interprets the theoretical writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and draws parallels between colonized African societies and the suppression of African American artistic expression by the American cultural mainstream.

Broadening his scope in essays on African and Caribbean authors, Baraka suggests that figures such as the Kenyan novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o and the poet Aimé Césaire from Martinique can provide models for how African American artists can escape being co-opted into an elite that supports the status quo and, instead, produce art that offers a “cathartic revelation of reality” useful in promoting social change.

Source: Enotes

*   *   *   *   *

Lunch Poems—Amiri Baraka


Books by Amiri Baraka

Tales of the Out & the Gone 

Somebody Blew Up America & Other Poems

The Essence of Reparations

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 – Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 – Don’t Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 – Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King

#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

*   *   *   *   *

Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label ‘trafficked’ does not accurately describe migrants’ lives and that the ‘rescue industry’ serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. “Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality.”—Lisa Adkins, University of London

*   *   *   *   *

Debt: The First 5,000 Years

By David Graeber

Before there was money, there was debt. Every economics textbook says the same thing: Money was invented to replace onerous and complicated barter systems—to relieve ancient people from having to haul their goods to market. The problem with this version of history? There’s not a shred of evidence to support it. Here anthropologist David Graeber presents a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom. He shows that for more than 5,000 years, since the beginnings of the first agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods—that is, long before the invention of coins or cash. It is in this era, Graeber argues, that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors.  Graeber shows that arguments about debt and debt forgiveness have been at the center of political debates from Italy to China, as well as sparking innumerable insurrections. He also brilliantly demonstrates that the language of the ancient works of law and religion (words like “guilt,” “sin,” and “redemption”) derive in large part from ancient debates about debt, and shape even our most basic ideas of right and wrong. We are still fighting these battles today without knowing it. Debt: The First 5,000 Years is a fascinating chronicle of this little known history—as well as how it has defined human history, and what it means for the credit crisis of the present day and the future of our economy.  

Economist Glenn Loury  /Criminalizing a Race

*   *   *   *   *

The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

*   *   *   *   *

Ancient African Nations

*   *   *   *   *

If you like this page consider making a donation

online through PayPal

*   *   *   *   *

Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


*   *   *   *   *

The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

*   *   *   *   *


*   *   *   *   *






update 23 February 2012




Home   Amiri Baraka Table  Jamie Walker Table