Talk:Amiri Baraka

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Anti-Baraka stance[edit]

The article as it stands gives something of an anti-Baraka slant. As a signatory to the tract "Poetry Matters!" I have a different perspective, and would argue that it should be mentioned in the article that there are some who have these views. --Daniel C. Boyer 19:10, 25 Sep 2004 (UTC)

I wrote the majority of the article and would have no objection to this. TDC 19:11, Sep 25, 2004 (UTC)

On a side note, nothing personal against you, I read the defense of Baraka and all I have to say is that I hope you did not write it, because I havent seen so much bullshit since I worked summers on a dairy farm in Phillips Wisconsin. TDC 19:52, Sep 25, 2004 (UTC)

Alas, your knowledge goes to waste if you don't contribute to the Bullshit article (currently lacking nearly any info on bovine feces) or the Phillips, Wisconsin article (nothing but U.S. Census tidbits). - Eric 14:38, 24 July 2005 (UTC)

Anyone who has read or studied Baraka, whether or not they like his poetry, plays, novels, essays, opinions, etc. will gravely and seriously doubt that the author of this article has ever read anything Jones/Baraka ever wrote other than quotes on right wing websites, one might glean that the author is well versed in a few sentences from statements issued by perhaps the ADL and the David Horowitz books on allegedly dangerous academics, but other than that it seems evident, from the look of this article, that the author is relying solely on the basis of opinion pieces from quite unabashedly right-wing polemics. The article, if it remains in its current state, is an embarassment to this encyclopedia, EVEN in the eyes of someone who doesn't like his writing (but who has read it), or of someone who is so-to-speak not of the "pro-Baraka crowd."

("pro-Baraka crowd" is a term someone stated below in an attempt to actually, quite embarassingly, accuse this article of being somehow overwhelmingly positive in its views of Baraka, as apparently the invidual who made this accusation was unsatisfied that said article is not enough of a polemic. In reality the article is clearly a kind of polemic of the totally, shamelessly uninformed that masquerades as an Encyclopedia article.)

A tiny number of the facts this article makes little or no mention of:

1. Baraka's often unrecognized yet quite significant involvement in the Beat Genration literary movement in America, he was the founder and editor of the magazine ZAZEN in which the Beat writers, his friends and colleagues, such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Felinghetti, and William S. Burroughs often had their work published. At the time he considered himself a Zen Bhuddist, like many of the Beats including Kerouac (whom the media had famously crowned as the godfather of the beat generation although Kerouac was reluctant to accept what he saw as a label) and Allen Ginsberg. Baraka often mentioned his close friendship with Ginsberg, the latter, despite interests in Bhuddism and other non-monotheistic religions such as the Yoruba faith, often employed an unmistakably Jewish and semitic character and themes in his writing, such as his famous poetry anthology KADDISH, named and styled after the Hebrew prayer for the dead. This last part is important to mention when trying to discuss allegations of anti-semitism in a context that presents more than one side. Baraka was extremely active within the Beat generation, which was essentially a circle of friends who were writers. Media relations were often a source of frustration for Beat writers, such as Kerouac who did not like the media's identification of him as the leader of the movement, Burroughs who refused to describe himself as Beat, and similarly also Baraka who rather accurately felt his quite prolific literary output while operating from within this largely caucasian circle went largely unmentioned as Beat by the media in the 50s who preferred to see the output by black writers as a completely seperate and unrelated genre.

2. Baraka's extremely influential role in the 60s civil rights struggle and 60s black power counterculture. Baraka was referred to as the "Imamu" and spiritual leader of the black arts movement, the frontman/spokesman of all the black artists involved in activism and dissident activity during this rather important period of American history. The black arts movement was very important to the Black Panthers and most other factions within the activist struggle as much of the art of the 60s was political in nature and seen as important in the anti-war and anti-racism movements. The anti-racism movements of the sixties saw their artistic voice as incredibly essential to their struggle, many important activists were artists. The black arts movement comprised not only poetry but also theatre, music, and many other mediums. Baraka was recognized as the frontman for this very complex and important movement. Many of the signature jazz performers were part of it, such as the Jazz musician Sun Ra, who was up until his death apparently one of the most cherished friends of Amiri Baraka. There is a phenomenal article on Sun Ra on the wikipedia.

3. Baraka's celebrated and prolific career in theatre, which has been influential not only in the 60s but throughout the last few decades. One of his most notable plays are Slaveship, which uses themes from the Yoruba African religion, it was a groundbeaking play for its experimental nature, its use of music, and its ritual quality as it used mythological and religious themes, for example the voices of the slaves in the ship constantly utter the names of Yoruba West-Arfrican pagan dieties in their speech, such as Obatala, Shango, Ogun, perhaps Oshun, and many others, and counterpose the African nature of this kind of spirituality against the Baptist Christianity practised by many African Americans. Also one finds in the play the character of Nat Turner, a black preacher who preached in America before the civil war and who led a slave rebellion or uprising in which he and his followers killed slave owners. Nat Turner is an historical figure in American black history, the priest James Cone who is considered as part of the phenomenon known as Liberation Theology, who is one of the few North American Liberation Theologians--Liberation Theology has been largely a Latin American phenomenon--often wrote on Nat Turner and cited him as his hero. Another notable play is The Slave.

4. The context of the statements in poems regarding raping white women. Something that most activists who partook in the black power movements identified as being one of the essential, if not central, characteristics of White Supremacist ideology and of all racism towards black people in America was the white stereotype of the allegedly ultra-rapacious nature of black men. The black man was seen as a sexually anarchic subhuman whose libido and ambitions revolved entirely around the desire to rape and inseminate white women, and to corrupt white womanhood. This was similar to Nazi Germany's identification of the Jew with miscegination, the Nazi accusation of the Jew as being on an eternal quest to corrupt German womanhood, as seen in much of nazi propaganda, even in illustrated schoolbooks then issued to children. Speeches of the KKK often cite miscegination between the black and white races (interracial sex) as the central danger facing white society, KKK speeches have often sermonized on the danger of a mulatto hybrid race emerging to destroy American society, all as the result of black men inseminating white women and corrupting white womanhood, usually through rape, always with overtones of rape. THe vast majority of the lynchings in which lynch mobs in the American South brutalized, tortured and hung, tarred or burned black men, were carried out on the mythical assumption or accusation that the black male in question had raped and defiled white women or white girl-children, or had intended to do so. The stereotype of the black man as a rapist of white womanhood, being a central tactic of racist hegemony in its ruthless aggression against the Afro-American minority, was a phenomenon that black activists were very well aware of. If a poet writes on the black experience under racism, as Baraka always has, then inevitably he will touch upon the themes of stereotypes projected upon him, and his remarks on these themes will not always necessarily be stated with political correctness, but rather in an extremely incendiary way.

Also the comments and allegations of anti-semitism in the poem Someone Blew Up America, are entirely based upon inference or interpretation of a single line in an extemely long poem that also spends much more time decrying the holocaust and the anti-semitic murder of Jews who Baraka quite clearly is identifying as heroes in this very vast poem, such as Rosa Luxembourg. He also identifies the Holocaust and the persecution of Jews as one of history's great acts of terrorism, he speaks especially of the persecution of leftist Jews who he mentions and presents as his heroes. Naturally these are members of the Jewish Left, which are usually much less important to the right wing agenda, nevertheless the persecution and liquidation of Jewish communists, anarchists, syndicalists and leftists in general has always been an integral part of anti-semitic ideology and violence, Nazism saw leftist ideologies as Jewish creations and pervesions which were part of a Jewish conspiracy and reflected what they saw as the perversity of the Jewish mind, such as Marx's and Marxists' alleged tendency to see everything in terms of economics suggesting the mythical/stereotypcial Jewish obsession with money, and Nazism was incontrovertibly an overtly anti-communist movement, whose anti-semitism and right wing anti-communism were virtually inextricable. There is also no mention whatsoever of Baraka's defense of himself against these accusations, for example the very extensive communique available on the net through his website, the text is titled "I will not 'apologize,' I will not 'resign'." The complete poem in question, by the way, is also quite readily available on the web, also through a link on his website, it's titled Somebody Blew Up America, but naturally this article cites one sentence (literally out of context) inferring it to be evidence of a hidden agenda of anti-semitic hatred, whereas no other segment of the poem, a quite long and dense poem, is mentioned for context, thus rather putting the integrity of the article into question once again. To add a note of humor to this, a live performance of the poem by Baraka himself is available on YouTube. I highly recommend it! 22:48, 16 April 2007 (UTC)Arturo Desimone

      • The article is more than fair in that it treats Baraka as a semi-serious literary talent, rather than a sophomoric hack who has achieved notice only because he spouts the doctrinaire radicals' standard hatreds du jour - against the government, the country, capitalism, whites, Jews, etc., all of which are responsible for his bottomless oppression and depression and so forth. As far as your comments regarding "Someone Blew Up America", it is not an "extremely long, very vast" poem. I just read it; it is juvenile tripe, inferior in rhythm or cadence to the rap lyrics my 13 year old son listens to, and with less meaningful content. Here are a few lines:

Who do Tom Ass Clarence Work for Who doo doo come out the Colon's mouth Who know what kind of Skeeza is a Condoleeza Who pay Connelly to be a wooden negro

It seems likely that Baraka could no more understand a Clarence Thomas opinion than a circus clown could pen Shakespeare. Putting forward something of this execrable quality as art says as much about the critical faculties of Baraka's supporters as it does about Baraka himself. The article greatly exaggerates his credibility. I urge the inclusion of selections like the one above from his work so that readers can see that it is an apparently unconscious parody of truly terrible poetry.

        • LeRoi Jones' early work can be said to have been lyrical even if Baraka's recent work lacks these qualities.IanThal 19:48, 7 May 2007 (UTC)
  • The charge of Antisemitism with regards to "Somebody Blew up America" are based on the facts that 1.) the claims he make about Israel are unsubstantiated and have been widely discredited; 2.) They claim that there is a vast yet incredibly secretive conspiracy involving over four thousand Jews in both the Israeli government and business sector; 3.) That he refuses to renounce the statements dispite the fact that numerous journalists, scholars, and security professionals have debunked the sources upon which he relied; and 4.) owing to his familiarity with the history of Antisemitism, he can be expected to know that making such false statements would inflame anti-Semitic passions.IanThal 19:48, 7 May 2007 (UTC)


Continuing from the above: In its present form the article lacks neutrality. While it's important to mention the controversies surrounding Baraka, the article should put this into perspective. All the quotes only seem to be there in order to prove that Baraka is anti-semitic while on the other hand there is hardly any information on the nature of his literary works. --a_conz 22:20, 25 Oct 2004 (UTC)

One issue is the potential over-emphasis of the NJ controversy. To me, the following phrase from the article seems like a crutch for a writer who wants to emphasize that situation and is expressing that desire as a claim that it's the "most widely known" thing about Baraka: "Baraka is today most widely known for the fact that in 2002 the state of New Jersey made him poet laureate, but forced him out of that position..." See also the last paragraph with his remark to the white student, for another example of this: is he really *known* for such comments or is that one anecdotal/isolated moment? -Kala

Why are so many people offended by Baraka's poem. To me it is the voice of America. Many americans wonder the same things that Baraka has addressed in th poem. It angers me that freedom of speech can be intercepted by something as outragous as accusing someone of anti-semitism. The real problem is not with Baraka but with the problems we face as citizens of this ever changing nation. The shame is it seems that poets these days are the only ones who are conscious of what is going on this world. What happened to people boldly speaking out for what is right and what you don't understand. Now all we do is critique those who have the courage to stand up. All these mendacious acquisations are out of control. I give Amiri Baraka his props, because I don't see any type of anti-semitic rhetoric or referneces persay. Give the lyrical master back his poet laureate duty and focus on the bigger vision....getting the bastards out of office.

Basically if you ever question the United States or Israel you run the risk of being labeled 'dangerous' -Noam Chomsky


"Lyrical master"? Not even according to the lowest standard. A master poet is someone who has the ability to transcend the limitations of words, who can string them together and reach a greater meaning like "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" or "in Xanadu did Kublai Khan a stately pleasure dome decree." A lyricist pens cadences that communicate something in an of themselves, in addition the the actual words used - the small percentage of rap music that truly constitutes art is an example.

Here is your supposed "lyrical master" Baraka at work in "Someone Blew Up America":

Who do Tom Ass Clarence Work for

Who doo doo come out the Colon's mouth

Who know what kind of Skeeza is a Condoleeza

Who pay Connelly to be a wooden negro

I've heard better from unruly 8-year olds on school playgrounds. Or to use his vernacular, "What kind of ca-ca is this Baraka?"

If you think childish, insulting doggerel constitutes lyrical mastery, I suggest you broaden your familiarity with American poetry. The standard is quite high, and the likelihood of Baraka getting a passing grade in a freshman composition class seems very low. If you want to promote his writing on political, racial or other grounds unrelated to its merits, fine; just don't pretend it has any worth on its own.

tomsyl 5/2/07



Baraka is using slang, which has been an American literary tradition since Mark Twain. Somehow, I doubt Tomsyl is as condecending to Huck Finn as he is to Someone Blew up America. I can't imagine why... 04:43, 11 July 2007 (UTC)


"stated further that "I do believe, as I stated about England, Germany, France, Russia, that the Israeli government, certainly its security force, SHABAK knew about the attack in advance." Baraka still stands by his claim, even though it has been completely debunked." Please provide references, footnotes , about it being completely debunked. I'm not saying you're wrong; I'm just asking for references and footnotes. 22:45, 31 Jan 2005 (UTC) This article is anti-baraka. Who wrote it that right-wing black listing author, who shouln't be mentioned at all?


Yes, it seems this is an article trying to indite Baraka on changes of anti-Semitism and nothing else.

Have at it then. TDC 05:06, July 16, 2005 (UTC)

New version[edit]

I've now tried to write a completely new version of this article - mostly based on the article I've written for German wikipedia and rehashing only very, very few bits from the old article - which, as I've stated above, I consider to be very partisan and derogatory. Some general comments on the new article:

  • So far I haven't listed the sources I've used (might incorporate that later). The most important are:
    • William J. Harris's Introduction to the LeRoi Jones / Amiri Baraka Reader, New York, 1991
    • The Wordsworth Companion to English Literature, Ware (GB), 1994
    • The Autobiography of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, Chicago, 1984
    • Numerous writings by Amiri Baraka
    • The links referred to in the article


  • This is only a start. So far the article's mostly biographic and bibliographic, i.e. literary criticism is missing (differing opinions, references to sources)
  • Most of Baraka's worked can be viewed on his homepage. I don't think anything would be wrong with some examples here and there - only I'm afraid his works are still subject to copyright (excerpts, like in the old article, that are polemical and purely quoted to make a political point are definitely not very helpful).
  • Baraka, of course, was and remains a controversial figure. Therefore perhaps a special section, sorting out the main controversies and giving a few quotes pro and con, might be helpful.
  • A special section on his music criticism (and his influence) would be very desirable.
  • In the old article there was a whole section on the recent death of his daughter. I consider that to be purely nosey, unenyclopedic yellow press prattle. But maybe some people would like to differ?
  • Finally: Though I'm sort of bilingual criticism/edits concerning language are much appreciated. --Albrecht_Conz 02:25, 25 July 2005 (UTC)
I think the article looks good now. A criticism section would be nice, as Baraka has said some less than diplomatic things in his career. TDC 02:42, July 25, 2005 (UTC)

Since I'm a complete noob, I wanted to offer this suggestion for discussion before editing a controversial page. I think it's a misleading simplification to say that Baraka "had to give up" his position as Laureate. On July 1, 2003, the New Jersey legislature completely eliminated the office, since there was no existing impeachment policy. Does this unusual circumstance warrant mention? BoredomMan 9:15, July 26, 2005 (UTC)

I gotta say I'm not too happy about Conz 's rewrite.

  • I think an article about a poet is much more insightful with quotes from his poetry.
  • I liked my section headings more than simple year-ranges (meaningful headings give meaning, years are just numbers)
  • The section I had added (and spent some time researching/editing/attributing) regarding his daughter was completely obliterated without discussion. I don't think that's in the spirit of Wikipedian consensus. I thought that section really helped balance out an otherwise negatively-slanting article, as well as give usefully relevant information about Baraka (and his family) in recent years.

- Eric 01:24, 27 July 2005 (UTC)

Hi Eric, thanks for your reply. As to the points you raise:

  • Concerning the quotes from his poetry I agree - to a certain point. Quotes are helpful, that is when they're meant to say something concerning poetry/literature. The old version had quotes only in order to proove that Baraka is antisemitic or homophobic. That's got very little to do with discussing the import of his poetry. As mentioned above, a section discussing the merits (pro and con) of his works is still very much needed. And that's where quotations should come in - not as part of his biography. Biography and art are two spheres to be discussed separately (of course there are interrelations - but that's no reason for confalting the two. You wouldn't want to mention things regarding Einsteins merits as a husband or father in a section concerning his theory of relativity - or the other way round). For the time being anyone interested can follow the link and peruse a very comprehensive collection of Barakas poetry.
  • Section headings: That's fair enough and might be useful, though, of course with the many developments that took place in Baraka's life it's rather difficult to subsume certain periods under one political slogan (like "black nationalism" - where does that leave the music criticism of the period?). That's the reason I opted for year ranges.
  • Above I mentioned my opinion on the section regarding his daughter. Sure, that's my point of view - and it's open to discussion as also mentioned above. To restate my position, maybe more clearly: I do not think that biographical trivia, especially of a, I'd opine, sensationalist kind, are a helpful contribution in assessing the meaning of a person's life. Just being a victim, a victim by proxy even, isn't a meaningful act or work. It might help, to feel sorry for somebody - but then there's lots of people you can feel sorry for - without understanding much about their life, work or import. I hope that's not too polemical; I just wanted to make my point of view clear. Sure we do need more debate and especially a section regarding the aesthetic, political and otherwise import of Baraka's works. --Albrecht Conz 22:46, 28 July 2005 (UTC)
After some consideration I'm reverting back to Albrecht Conz's version. While it is important to discuss Baraka's anti-semitism, it's also important that this article not be obsessed with it or so have so much space devoted to proving it to the reader. Gamaliel 18:09, 10 September 2005 (UTC)

I don't know anything about how to edit on here, but I'm going to give this a try. It's good to see you are all starting from scratch. Hopefully, we can arrive at some sort of fair portrayal of this man's life. First of all, this is all going to come up so I'm going to cover two important points. His anti-semitism and his homophobia. Most of his anti-semitism stems from the period of his involvement with the Nation of Islam, which was common among the membership. One should check out his essay "Confessions of an ex-anti-semite" before condemming him. In it he apologizes for past anti-semitism and today says that he is simply anti-zionist. In relation to the quotes about israelis filming the towers in his recent poem he says that he doesn't see israel as any more monolithic than America, which is basically an assertion that not all israeli jews are bad people, which should be the sticking point for an accusation of "anti-semitism" by definition. Onward to the accusation of homophobia. CLEARLY some of his poems are homophobic. This can't be denied. However, just as with the anti-semitic accusations, these poems were written in a certain time and place and we can only ascertain from them his views AT THAT TIME (if at all, because art affords a certain poetic license). In 2003, his daughter, a lesbian, and her lover were brutally murdered. At the funeral a friend reported that he said that "yes, his daughter was gay and we need to root out homophobia and evil in the Black community and the world at large. Even beyond their death, just to see those two caskets there in the church showed that here were two women who loved each other.” I don't know how to put that in the article, but that clearly refutes any future criticism to the effect that he is an ONGOING or PRACTICING homophobe. The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk • contribs) .

Because of the nature of his claims in "Somebody Blew Up America", it is very hard to claim that he is "an ex-anti-Semite"-- the charges of a vast secretive and mallicous conspiracy involving both New York Jews and the Israeli government (with tenuous evidence) is a classic anti-Semitic rhetoric-- now this may be very different than the sort of Antisemitism espoused by the Nation of Islam, but it is still Antisemitism. By analogy, David Duke once proudly identified as a white-supremacist, but now he calls himself a white-seperatist, either way, David Duke is still a racist. Baraka's break with the Nation of Islam, symbolizes that he has rejected a type of antisemitism that is grounded in that particular sect's theology and mythology, however, he now embraces a secular, Arab-nationalist, conspiracy-theory, type of antisemitism.IanThal 14:38, 13 July 2007 (UTC)

Of Relevance[edit]

I ask, perhaps there should be an apology offered to the author of this article: for Baraka's statements, claims and for the grief these may have caused he or she. For it is quite evident. This article is nearly devoid of scholarship and dripping with misguided sarcasm, negates its intended purpose of libelling the name of a great and American poet. The incorrect usage of grammar and offhand phrasing are typical. The attacks at Baraka's personage are but trivial. Indeed, I ask, is it of relevance to what purports to be a encyclical entry this scathing bias? Is it of relevance this infatuation of white America with black art, in all its vain disdain and utter misinterpretation? To whomever agreed it was justifiable this article be published, I offer you an apology: for the ignorance of a nation and any interruption it may be caused. Andthetranemoves 08:14, 28 March 2006 (UTC)


To the extent the above entry is comprehensible, its author seems to be saying that Baraka is great because he says so. Anyone with a decent education and background in American literature is capable of evaluating and critiquing works written in English, and it doesn't take much reading of Baraka to determine that his work is largely crude, insulting doggerel written at an elementary school level. Calling him a great person and saying that his detractors don't understand him etc. will not magically elevate his ouvre from tripe to truffles. And since when is pointing out someone's racist, misogynistic background and history of hate speech libelous? Were the author to research the legal meaning of that word, he would learn that truth is always a defense.

As far as the above commentator's arrogance in purportedly apologizing "for the ignorance of a nation" is concerned, I respectfully suggest that he limit himself to apologizing for his own ignorance. For we can only speak to our own knowledge or lack of same, and often do so without realizing it.

tomsyl 5/2/07

"Alleged answer" needs a cite[edit]

"he allegedly answered one white woman student's question on how whites could help the situation with this response..."

Needs a cite. Or possibly should be removed. -- 21:08, 1 April 2006 (UTC)

worst what?[edit]

"in 2006, controversial right-wing author and lecturer David Horowitz ranked Baraka 27th worst in his book The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America." 27th worst what exactly? Paul B 15:36, 20 April 2006 (UTC)

I clarified the language of the sentence, although it seems clear from the book title that it refers to his role as professor or scholar. --chemica 01:11, 23 July 2006 (UTC)
I think the great problem is that according to the book's article, Horowitz did not rank the professors. The list was created in alphabetical order by the institution with which the professor is associated. --chemica 01:26, 23 July 2006 (UTC)

Date Inconsistencies/Style Revision Needed[edit]

The Biography section gives inconsistent dates for Baraka's name change, presents dates in non-chronological order, etc. Further, the article refers to Baraka alternatively as Jones or Baraka, confusion ensues. Lobstersandbox 22:44, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

We need contribution discussing what this man actually did![edit]

I agree with all the complaints about this article. It is slanderous and disgusting and clearly focuses on the few instances of Amiri Baraka's work that some people consider unacceptable. Regardless that these complaints are obviously rooted in a misunderstanding of poetry, of black nationalism, of the social and political histories of black people and radicals in particular their complaints do deserve a place because some people consider them notable, but for god's sake let's also mention the rest of what he did.

"Baraka stands with Wheatley, Douglass, Dunbar, Hughes, Hurston, Wright and Ellison as one of the eight figures... who have significantly affected the course of African-American literary culture." - Arnold Rampersad

The life of a man is always an evolution, let us change the phrasing of this article to frame his life properly: his commitment to growth and change, to freedom, justice and pride, rather than the standing article which accuses him of commitment to anti-Semitism and hate.

And who are these supposed left-wing radicals that are suspect of his commitment to Marxism? Who said that they get to decide what Marxism means? This at the very least needs clarification. But right now I'm going to remove it.

      • You said: "these complaints [about Baraka's work] are obviously rooted in a misunderstanding of poetry, of black nationalism, of the social and political histories of black people and radicals in particular . . . " What misunderstanding of poetry" are you referring to, and what are your own qualifications as a judge of what is good, bad or indifferent?

No degree in literature is required to conclude that the poem cited repeatedly in the entry, "Someone Blew Up America", is on its face of extremely low quality. All one has to do is read it. You appear to be arguing that despite this, the poem is somehow being taken out of context, and that it magically will become a work of art once the other factors you deem relevant are considered. This reeks of an approach to literary criticism that itself is hugely subjective, yet aims to disqualify the negative views of others because "they just don't get it." The truth is exactly the opposite: great literature transcends cultural and temporal boundaries, and stands on its own, without excuses from the authors' apologists or sycophants.

Here's a simple thought experiment: The New Yorker publishes anonymously a short poem by Baraka, with it's typical potty language and anti-Semitism intact. After a torrent of protests, the magazine reveals that the poem is by Baraka, whom a Stanford professor considers a genius. What has changed with regard to the poem?

What's next, saying that people who think Baraka's poetry stinks are racist?

Tomsyl 5/14/07 01:14, 15 May 2007 (UTC)

•What is being missed is that along with the change of name from Leroi Jones to Amiri Baraka, from one ideology to another and then to another, his writing has changed a great deal. There is nothing contradictory for instance of celebrating his early work as Leroi Jones and being a harsh critic of his more recent work. Certainly more attention could be directed towards his contributions to American, African-American, and Beat literary worlds, but if this article pays a lot of attention to the charges of Antisemitism, homophobia, or misogyny-- that's the fault of Baraka himself for courting controversy. But his literary output simply does not exist separately from his often extreme politics.IanThal 20:57, 15 May 2007 (UTC)


This article is complete POV, but for Baraka! The article systematically white-washes, excuses and discounts his most biggoted outbursts. Unless someone objects. I'm putting a NPOV warning, and I'll take the time in the next couple of days to enumerate the specific problems I identify in this article. --Ori Livneh (talk..contribs) 22:27, 26 June 2006 (UTC)

Nobody should allow the pro-Baraka crowd to spew apologisms and jutifications, as it had done before my just-now re-edits, any more than the anti-Baraka crowd should be permitted to unceasingly criticize with no conception of the impressive writing I am sure Baraka has done (and let me just add that Hitler, too, wrote and spoke very impressively -- take from that allusion what you will).
This article (and I've written some of it) is still very superficial and many things are missing - especially regarding his works and his impact (cultrally as well as politically). Of course Baraka has been, and is, a controversial figure, yet rants as the above are not at all helpful, especially as they seem to come from people who seem to know little to nothing about him. I might be wrong, of course. But if you know more and want to contribute it would be helpful if you named your sources, went to specifics etc. The way it is now, it is nothing but a jaundiced rant. Which is why I am going to remove the NPOV tag for the time being. --Albrecht Conz 23:34, 2 September 2006 (UTC)

Verify quote?[edit]

I heard an allegation that a LeRoi or LeRoy Jones wrote: “Rape the white girls. Rape their fathers. Cut the mother’s throats." Is this the same person? Does anyone know if he really wrote or said that? If so, I was wondering if it should be mentioned.

Boris B 14:37, 3 August 2006 (UTC) (I forgot to sign again!)

There are lots of allegations etc. going around about all kinds of things. In case you actually heard that it would be helpful if you'd not just come up with an allegation but with a source for it. --Albrecht Conz 23:37, 2 September 2006 (UTC)

Please read Alice Walker, You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich 1981) , and in particular, the short story "Advancing Luna - And Ida B. Wells" in its entirety. --Gaby w 07:19, 16 September 2006 (UTC)

"In case you actually heard that it would be helpful if you'd not just come up with an allegation but with a source for it." I asked a very reasonable question. Google gives 615 hits for the search ""rape the white girls" Baraka" (including the inner quotation marks) and 1070 for ""rape the white girls" Jones." Browsing those links the answer to my first question is obvious; I tend to use Wikipedia as my first resort but I suppose Google will have to do. The answer to my second question, should this be mentioned, remains open. Boris B 05:04, 17 September 2006 (UTC)

Baraka never gave up Laureate post[edit]

The following sentence is inaccurate: "In 2002, the state of New Jersey made him poet laureate—a position he had to give up in 2003, surrounding controversy having to do with his 9/11 poem Somebody Blew Up America [2]." What happenened was the then then Governer McGreevy tried to remove Baraka from the post, only to discover that there was no legal way to do so. So he then abolished the NJ Poet Laureate title.

Baraka never relinquished the post - in fact he refused to do so.

Baraka was forced to give up the post of poet laureate of New Jersey by the only means available to the governor to do so -- by eliminating the post. Bus stop 16:12, 13 July 2007 (UTC)

categorization as "liberal"[edit]

  • Someone recently added Category:American liberals to Amiri Baraka article; I think this is completely wrong and I removed it, but other editors should weigh in. --lquilter 14:18, 19 January 2007 (UTC)
Agreed. There is nothing particularly liberal about Baraka's politics or ideology. That he hates the adminstration of George W. Bush does not make him a liberal.IanThal 19:14, 18 July 2007 (UTC)

Bibliography needs fixing[edit]

I'll edit, over the next few days, adding original publication dates and ISBN numbers. RahadyanS 15:18, 21 January 2007 (UTC)


As this article currently stands, a casual reader would have no idea that Baraka has inspired so much controversy. It would not be unfair to mention this, giving a brief rundown of the most important examples. Mistermind 18:53, 6 February 2007 (UTC)

How to improve & not to improve this article[edit]

Yesterday I've reverted most of this article to an earlier version. I do not understand why previously many established facts about the career of Baraka have been removed from this page. This is an encyclopedia, not a place for rants and raves. Of course Amiri Baraka is - and has been - a controversial figure. We certainly do need a section on the controversies surrounding his works and political positions. But this has to be balanced on the one hand against the artistic impact of his works as such - which is manifold - and on the other hand there are numerous political controversies. So it's no good to just take up contemporary stuff, hearsay from talk radio, unsubstantiated present day political polemics. In a section on controversies Barakas positions on Marxism, black nationalism and feminism in the 1960s and 1970s would have to have at least the same space as more recent controversies concerning what he said about 9/11. - All knowledgeable contributions are welcome, i.e. people who have read his works and works on him - write on. Ranters and ravers, please go to talk radio. --Albrecht Conz 23:25, 24 May 2007 (UTC)

  • Unfortunately, your revert ended up inserting text copied from another website, which is disallowed. I had to revert it out. However, please do re-edit it and remove nonsense/POV/etc ... just don't re-add copyvio text or the article will be gutted/deleted pretty quickly. Copyright violations are serious stuff - Alison 23:29, 24 May 2007 (UTC)

Copyright violations[edit]

Hi all. I just reverted the above article due to the insertion of text copied from this page. Unfortunately, I'm not familiar with the subject at all, so this is the best I can do. Can someone look it over and tidy it up? Please don't re-insert the copyvio text or the article will end up being deleted - Alison 23:19, 24 May 2007 (UTC)

Hi Alison. As far as I can see the copyright violation is the other way round, i.e, someone copied information from a previous version of this article (which I wrote myself some time ago). Unfortunatly - and I do not understand why - the history of this article only goes back to Dec. 2006, i.e. I used a version of my text I'd saved locally in order to do the revert. --Albrecht Conz 23:29, 24 May 2007 (UTC)
It was deleted in December 2006 for copyright violation. If you say the original sources were yours, translated from the German, then maybe mention this on the talk page and point to the German wiki version. We can't really take chances on copyright stuff. - Alison 23:38, 24 May 2007 (UTC)
Well, I've mentioned it. And the link to the German version is readily available on the article page anyway ... I've only saved the article on my computer at the time because I wrote it. Once the older versions in the history have been deleted it is of course rather difficult to prove who copied what. Still I do not understand why this could have been deleted without anyone notifying me. What is going on? I mean, why should I write something only to have it deleted because somebody copied it and then somebody else came up with a claim that it was actually copied the other way round - and no way to prove it one way or the other ... because somebody deleted the history without notifiying me, the author. - What is going on??? - I do not have the time to deal with such rubbish. You seem to be here quite frequently. Please move this matter to the relevant meta discussion for resolution. --Albrecht Conz 00:03, 25 May 2007 (UTC)

(indent) Ok - calm down for a second. Firstly, as an admin, I can see all deleted revisions so they're not entirely gone. I've no idea as to what happened last December other than by looking in the deletion logs. I've no interest nor experience in the subject matter here - I'm just some admin doing my job, is all, and the only reason I'm involved here at all is because I declined semi-protection; a decision I still stand by, needless to say. Here's the deletion record;

02:18, 10 December 2006 Can't sleep, clown will eat me (talk · contribs) deleted "Amiri Baraka" (speedy G12, copied from (Restore)

It was edited by User:Yawnni on the 9th of December, which caused the article to be speedied. Check out User_talk:Yawnni for the full details of the mess. Back in December 22nd, User:America jones began scratch-writing it again.

I can understand your annoyance here but you should realise that it's not your article and .. well .. these things do happen. Under the circumstances, the admin above had to delete it as copyright violations (even potential ones) are a serious problem - possibly even legal. If you like, there's a copyright review board here that can look into the matter for you, see Wikipedia:Copyright_problems

- Alison 00:22, 25 May 2007 (UTC)

today's edit[edit]

Baraka's poem rightly or wrongly mentions the concerns about Israelis and 9/11; given that the poem also clearly expresses sympathy for Jews in the Holocaust, it's inaccurate and unfair to blithely categorize the lines mentioning Israeli involvement as some kind anti-Semitic statement by calling it "Jewish involvement".

Also the login function is not working for me.

Except for the fact that the concerns he expresses are based in falsehoods and amount to a post 9/11 update of classic anti-semitic conspiracy theorizing. That he isn't a Holocaust denier doesn't let him off the hook. Antisemitism manifests itself in myriad forms and he happens to espouse one while condemning another.IanThal 04:11, 16 July 2007 (UTC)
Baraka has a long history of antisemitism. [1] Bus stop 01:45, 17 July 2007 (UTC)

What does this mean:

"Who know why Five Israelis was filming the explosion
And cracking they sides at the notion"

And what does this mean:

"Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed
Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers
To stay home that day
Why did Sharon stay away"

That is from "SOMEBODY BLEW UP AMERICA" by Amiri Baraka. [2] Bus stop 19:14, 18 July 2007 (UTC)

Bus Stop is quite correct to bring up these lines. The fact that he now rejects the ideology of the Nation of Islam in no way takes away from the fact that these lines amount to an accusation of a massive criminal conspiracy involving the Israeli government and that this accusation is anti-Semitic in content especially when the individual "facts" Baraka cites have all been shown to be incorrect propositions or to have been placed out of context (such as the arrest of 5 Israellis who were arrested as part of a general dragnet of Middle Easterners in NYC that day.)IanThal 19:02, 18 July 2007 (UTC)

Wikipedia must be encyclopedia, even if that isn't necessarily right[edit]

Much of the discussion here has been debating whether or not Baraka is anti-Semetic but the truth of the matter is not what needs to be in Wikipedia right now.

(my own argument that it isn't anti-Semetic to criticize the Israeli government or Zionism but when you criticism the Israeli people (given that Israel is an ethnic nation-state based on Jewish ethnicity and given that this definition usually is assumed to exclude Israeli Arabs), it is pretty much anti-Semetic, but that's irrelevant because I'm non-notable)

As an encyclopedic source Wikipedia ought to contain cited sources talking about Baraka's accomplishments and in a format more readable than chronological. It should also address cited references to the controversy as well as cited, prominent defenses of Baraka. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:20, 12 March 2008 (UTC)

Passages without Citation[edit]

I am neither pro- nor anti-Baraka, but this page reads like a half-baked college essay. The first rule of Wikipedia (and any English class at any level) is that everything needs to be verifiable and/or properly cited. All passages followed by "(citation needed)" need to be removed or cited. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:39, 13 February 2009 (UTC)

What's missing here is[edit]

Any mention of his very public clashes with Phillip Roth. I say this as neither a sworn enemy, nor a fan of either guy. But their exchanges are considered pretty significant by literary historians, and by anyone looking at the history of African American/Jewish relations. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:19, 25 May 2009 (UTC)

"Errors of fact"[edit]

The example of the deaths of Allende and Neruda as being one of Baraka's "errors of fact" is probably a rather bad example, especially in comparison with much more questionable statements. Pablo Neruda was indeed ill with prostate cancer, and it would have been inevitable that he die a couple of years down the road. (Prostate cancer is one of the slowest cancers around.) However, it is fairly universally understood that the immediate cause of his death was the shock that the coup - and the subsequent shooting of half a thousand of his friends and fellow militants in a week - produced in him.

I would presume Baraka is making the point here that dying by being emotionally crushed is not very different from dying by gunshot, or something of the sort. Feketekave (talk) 13:16, 14 October 2009 (UTC)


Sometimes articles forget to include the most basic facts, which results in certain sentences making no sense. The article implies that he converted to Nation of Islam, probably from Christianity, and changed his name. But the article never explicitly states this. Someone on the talk page mentioned that he later denounced the Nation of Islam, and again there is no mention in the article. I'm not familiar with this man at all, but someone who is familiar really needs to include this stuff. Klopek007 (talk) 15:19, 18 October 2010 (UTC)

1961 pro-Cuban resolution[edit]

There are at least three published pro-Cuban resolutions Baraka signed in 1961 (if the web is correct). I have used the first I found, from the Havanna blog of Margaret Randall, entry "Death of one Era, Birth of Another". Sept 17, 2009 - source: M. Randall's book: To Change the World. My Years in Cuba (2009). The Evergreen Review printed a resolution signed by Jones, DiPrima, Ferlinghetti, Mailer, Ginsberg and Paul Goodman. The "Afro-American" printed a resolution signed by Clarke, Cruse, Gibson, Mayfield, Robert Williams (all on the July trip) and by Ossie Davis and W.E.B. DuBois. --Radh (talk) 14:41, 7 December 2010 (UTC)

Removing lede summary RE: criticism of Baraka's work and misogyny, racism, homophobia and violence[edit]

The Wikipedia criteria for a Lede is to summarize the content of the article. The article is NOT about one person's opinion of Baraka. But about Baraka. The issue under debate fails balance and is not big enough to merit inclusion in someone's lead. Take it to the body. I mean 1/2 his lead is occupied by Critics! Do you need more? Where is the balance? --Inayity (talk) 16:24, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

  • Sadly the comment in the lede summarizing the negative criticism of Baraka's work has been removed, I reinserted it, and once again reverted by someone claiming in barely literate edit summaries that it's not salient. I disagree. Watts is a noted literary critic, who has written extensively on literary theory, sociology and specifically on Baraka's work. It's not just one persons view, Watts is the most prominent among them, but the body of the article already lays out several such critics (the lede summarizes this adequately). And the fact critics have pointed to Baraka's work as racist, misogynistic, and homophobic ought to be mentioned in the lede since it's one of the leading critiques of Baraka's work. We aren't here to make the man a saint--this isn't hagiography and the fact remains, Baraka's work was at times very violent and very hateful. Add some positive criticism by all means, but this article isn't a battlefield to whitewash or remove the unpleasant facts. For a controversial and often critically volatile person, such summary in the lede is entirely appropriate.--ColonelHenry (talk) 16:27, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
Worry about the article and do not give commentary on non-essential issues. Who is this someone? The lead, as I have already mentioned is NEGATIVE enough. The body of the article is a good enough place to express all views with some balance. Already 1/2 the lead is occupied with negative remarks. which fail NPOV. So as for making a Saint of the man, you seem to be intent on making a Devil of the man. I repeat How many more negative opinions do you need in the lede? He was not Hitler. So please do not mis-represent the issue as hedging negativity. It is creating some balance per NPOV. --Inayity (talk) 16:35, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
  • O.K., if you've seen my contributions to this article over the last few months, you'll see that I've added information on both sides (positive and negative). The article is not the best quality and like a lot on Wikipedia could be significantly improve. But this comment belongs appropriately in the lede as it was written. If you have a positive critique from a respected literary scholar or critic (I think Cornel West wrote on some of Baraka's merits...have to find that), the two would balance out. Add that positive material by all means, but do not remove a salient, appropriate, summary just because you think it's negative. However, I'm not intending to make the man a Devil--I actually like the guy despite some of his hate-filled poetry and prose. But I'm not going to agree to the removal good material just because you think it's "too negative" and haven't rectified it by providing something good to say about the man. And seriously, per Godwin's Law--don't mention just means you've lost your argument and resort to unnecessarily loaded and incendiary rhetoric.--ColonelHenry (talk) 16:42, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
  • And before you scream NPOV, you have three sources in the lede that point out the comparison to Baldwin and positive reviews. It's disingenuous to ignore that. The lede isn't "half negative".--ColonelHenry (talk) 16:45, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
Well what do you think now. I have restore the ref without restoring the long way it used to insult him. IN all fairness just compare the two versions. dif--Inayity (talk) 16:47, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
Looks like a whitewashing the legacy of a hateful man by an editor seeking to vindicate his hero.--ColonelHenry (talk) 17:07, 10 January 2014 (UTC)
You say that with a 1/2 heart. Because I think objectively no one can seriously say that is what I did. B/c all the same content is there. But I have removed all those little naughty words which violate NPOV. Like if the entire world had a problem with his poem. He was angry and inequity not necessarily hateful. --Inayity (talk) 17:22, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Yeah, I do not see it your way...

Rape the white girls.
Rape their fathers.
Cut the mothers’ throats.
Black dada nihilismus,
choke my friends.


Roywilkins is an eternal faggot
His spirit is a faggot
his projection and image, this is
to say, that if i ever see roywilkins
on the sidewalks
stick half my sandal
up his

Hate "Like the acid vomit of the fire of Hell", it's a message fit for a Christmas card (sarcasm). --ColonelHenry (talk) 17:32, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

Yeah that is a little strong, hence why I restored the ref.--Inayity (talk) 17:37, 10 January 2014 (UTC)


There seems to be no mention in the text of his son Ras, currently a candidate for Newark mayor, although several other children are mentioned. Surely that belongs somewhere in the chronology. Jeepien (talk) 17:45, 20 March 2014 (UTC)

  • Details of Ras's candidacy belong on the Ras Baraka article. Aside from a brief (that is, the briefest) mention of his son being politically active in Newark, city council and mayoral candidate, it should not go into detail (per WP:SUMMARY). One sentence at most should suffice.--ColonelHenry (talk) 18:00, 20 March 2014 (UTC)
  • @Jeepien: - I added a two sentence brief in the chronology right after the discussion of his daughter's murder.--ColonelHenry (talk) 18:18, 20 March 2014 (UTC)

1979 Arrest(s)?[edit]

I found a source that says he was arrested in 1979 for involvement in a civil rights protest. Previously on the page there was a statment that he was arrested in 1979 for a domestic indecent with his wife. I don't know if these are two takes on the same arrest or if these are separate arrests. I will try and find out, but noting the question here in the meantime.

Wowaconia (talk) 15:25, 14 September 2015 (UTC)

It appears to be just one incident with different accounts, I have added this info to the article.

Wowaconia (talk) 16:24, 14 September 2015 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

Hello fellow Wikipedians,

I have just modified 2 external links on Amiri Baraka. Please take a moment to review my edit. If you have any questions, or need the bot to ignore the links, or the page altogether, please visit this simple FaQ for additional information. I made the following changes:

When you have finished reviewing my changes, please set the checked parameter below to true or failed to let others know (documentation at {{Sourcecheck}}).

You may set the |checked=, on this template, to true or failed to let other editors know you reviewed the change. If you find any errors, please use the tools below to fix them or call an editor by setting |needhelp= to your help request.

  • If you have discovered URLs which were erroneously considered dead by the bot, you can report them with this tool.
  • If you found an error with any archives or the URLs themselves, you can fix them with this tool.

If you are unable to use these tools, you may set |needhelp=<your help request> on this template to request help from an experienced user. Please include details about your problem, to help other editors.

Cheers.—InternetArchiveBot (Report bug) 19:00, 11 October 2016 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

Hello fellow Wikipedians,

I have just modified one external link on Amiri Baraka. Please take a moment to review my edit. If you have any questions, or need the bot to ignore the links, or the page altogether, please visit this simple FaQ for additional information. I made the following changes:

When you have finished reviewing my changes, you may follow the instructions on the template below to fix any issues with the URLs.

You may set the |checked=, on this template, to true or failed to let other editors know you reviewed the change. If you find any errors, please use the tools below to fix them or call an editor by setting |needhelp= to your help request.

  • If you have discovered URLs which were erroneously considered dead by the bot, you can report them with this tool.
  • If you found an error with any archives or the URLs themselves, you can fix them with this tool.

If you are unable to use these tools, you may set |needhelp=<your help request> on this template to request help from an experienced user. Please include details about your problem, to help other editors.

Cheers.—InternetArchiveBot (Report bug) 01:55, 4 July 2017 (UTC)