Amiri Baraka Honored in New York
Writer Amiri Baraka (pictured left) was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters yesterday at a ceremony held in New York City. Baraka (a JazzTimes contributor) is part of a class of 14 new members that also includes writers John Irving, Garrison Keillor and Jane Smiley.
Born LeRoy Jones in 1934 in New Jersey, Baraka became a well-known jazz writer and champion of the avant-garde in the 1950s and ‘60s. His book Blues People: Black Music in White America studied race relations in jazz and was one of the first of its kind by a black writer. While living in Manhattan's Lower East Side, Baraka wrote poetry and established himself as a playwright. Dutchman, his first play, won him an OBIE Award from the Village Voice in 1964. In 1968, after moving to Harlem, he dropped his western name and adopted the Muslim name of Imamu Amiri Baraka. Today, Baraka continues to work as a critic, poet, playwright, and advocate for the rights and equality of African Americans.