Twentieth Century Literary Giants
Courtesy of the Everett Collection.
Born Leroi Jones in Newark, New Jersey, Amiri Baraka began his career as a poet and essayist in the Beat-influenced, avant-garde literary scene of New York's Lower East Side. After the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965, Baraka moved to Harlem and became a black nationalist and a pioneering figure in the Black Arts Movement. He remained politically active throughout his career as a writer, helping Kenneth Gibson to become the first black mayor of Newark, New Jersey in 1972 and serving as the principal organizer of the National Black Political Convention in Gary, Indiana, in 1972. In works such as "Confessions of a Former Anti-Semite" Baraka reveals his personal struggle with issues such as anti-Semitism, while The Baptism and The Toilet (1967) show his tolerance of homosexuals, who he sees as alienated in a way similar to African Americans in a United States charged with racial and sexual intolerance.