Amiri Baraka, Deploying Words as Weapons

Imamu Amiri Baraka, born Everett Leroy Jones on October 7, 1934, is a world-renowned revolutionary figure who has had an immensely controversial and enduring career in various forms of literature, art, and political activism.  Most notably known for his poetry, Baraka would gain respect in many societal facets.

The Beat Period

A native of New Jersey, Baraka has traveled extensively and lived during times of international and domestic crises; during his life, his ideology would often change as a reaction to influential current events.  He lived through the entire Cold War, the Vietnam War, the African-American Civil Rights Movement, and many other dilemmas which would directly influence his outlook and writing accordingly.  At almost 77 years old, Baraka remains an influential figure with countless awards, accreditations, works, and international respect.  His efforts, accompanied by his common dissent, would have an enormous influence on the future of American contemporary music, popular culture, and other mediums of artistic expression.

What to Expect

This project attempts to explore Baraka’s significance in the African-American Literary Canon, specifically in regards to his “Black Aesthetic” which he called for during the “Black Arts Movement”.  As an extremely dynamic individual, it was imperative that I understood the historical precursors to his career before attempting to write about him.  I couldn’t stop reading about his deeply intriguing and controversial career, and I have included a lot of historical/personal information that is irrelevant to my argument, but it serves (I believe) as important insight into his character.  Please feel free to leave me comments or criticisms about anything you may find among these pages.


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One thought on “Amiri Baraka, Deploying Words as Weapons

  1. Omar,

    Solid project. I think the layout of the site might tend to deemphasize the most important aspect, which is the section called “Works.” Maybe some links between the other pages and this would help, or maybe highlighting that section as the key piece somehow would keep it from being a “ta-da!” moment. For instance, you could point your reader to this discussion when you say this: “Baraka’s influence on contemporary music, popular culture, and political activism remains an enormous force to this day.”*

    But once I got there, this essay is solid. In terms of structure, you take awhile to get to the meat of the argument, which I take to be:

    “Baraka believed that Black authors should create truly independent work that was faithful to the spirit of the African-American struggle. The new Black Aesthetic argued for an independent black art, which would empower artistic creativity and racial solidarity. Baraka believed that by centering art on black culture and society, artists did not have to worry about pleasing white society’s standards, but rather themselves.”

    A little bit of sandwich structuring at the top might help bring your reader to speed faster. But the content is good. I think you could incorporate some historical discussion of Locke in relation to Marcus Garvey or, even better, in relation to Langston Hughes’s “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain.” I can see important links between Hughes’s view and Baraka’s: the connection to musical forms, the link of art and politics (esp. in Hughes’s more political poems of the 1930s), the question of white audiences, etc.

    The final part of the essay might be further developed by bringing in the voices of some scholars and musicians to talk about Baraka’s influence on hip hop. I definitely can see this connection, but I would like to see it made more explicitly.

    Thank you for a very interesting project.



    *note: you may also want to explain the color coding somewhere in the introduction section. Also, the spelling is Du Bois.

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