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Amiri Baraka Collection

An inventory of his collection at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Baraka, Amiri, 1934-
Title: Amiri Baraka Collection
Inclusive Dates: 1964-1974
Bulk Dates: 1968
Quantity: 1 folder (SC)
Abstract: Amiri Baraka (born Everett LeRoi Jones on October 7, 1934, in Newark, New Jersey) is an American writer of poetry, drama, essays, and music criticism. The collection consists of correspondence and clippings, most relating to Baraka's 1967 arrest in Newark, New Jersey; there is one letter from Baraka (1974).
Language: English, one item in Russian
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010
http://scrc.syr.edu

Biographical History

Amiri Baraka (born Everett LeRoi Jones on October 7, 1934, in Newark, New Jersey) is an American writer of poetry, drama, fiction, essays, and music criticism. He studied at Rutgers University, received a B.A. from Howard University (1954), an M.A. in philosophy from Columbia University, and an M.A. in German literature from the New School for Social Research.

Baraka, who published under his birth name of LeRoi Jones until 1967, is known for his social criticism and a confrontational and inflammatory style that has made it difficult for some audiences and critics to view either him or his works objectively. Baraka's art stems directly and specifically from his African-American heritage; throughout his career, whether poetry, drama, fiction, or essays, he has worked to shock and awaken audiences to the political concerns of black Americans during the second half of the twentieth century. Baraka's own political stance changed several times over his career, which in turn impacted his work. Early on, he was a member of the Beat Movement and a friend of Frank O'Hara, Allen Ginsberg, and Gilbert Sorrentino, but a 1959 visit to Cuba inspired him to be more active in fighting for social justice. After the death of a Malcolm X in 1965, Baraka became a black nationalist; later he revised his views, denouncing black nationalism as a form of racism, and became a third world socialist and then a Marxist. Following the September 11, 2001, bombings of the World Trade Center, Baraka suggested in his poem "Somebody Blew up America" that New York's Jews had received advance warning to stay out of the Twin Towers. The public response was so aggressive that New Jersey abolished the position of poet laureate which Baraka held at the time. In 2006, David Horowitz included Baraka in his book The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America.

He has received many awards over his career: the John Whitney Foundation fellowship for poetry and fiction, 1962; Village Voice Best American Off- Broadway Play ( "Obie") award, 1964, for Dutchman; Guggenheim fellowship, 1965-66; Yoruba Academy fellow, 1965; National Endowment for the Arts grant, 1966; D.H.L. from Malcolm X College, 1972; Rockefeller Foundation fellow (drama), 1981; Poetry Award, National Endowment for the Arts, 1981; New Jersey Council for the Arts award, 1982; American Book Award, Before Columbus Foundation, 1984, for Confirmation: An Anthology of African- American Women; Drama Award, 1985; PEN-Faulkner Award, 1989; Langston Hughes Medal, 1989, for outstanding contribution to literature; Ferroni award (Italy), and Foreign Poet Award, 1993; James Weldon Johnson Medal, 2001; and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Los Angeles Pan African Film Festival, 2002.

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Amiri Baraka Collection is divided into three parts. The bulk of the material relates to Jones' (as he was then known) arrest during the July 1967 "Rebellion" in Newark, New Jersey. According to Jones' statement, he and two other men had been in the area of the riots to observe, report, and assist the wounded and injured. On their way home around one a.m. on Friday, July 14, they were stopped, beaten, and arrested by several policemen who claimed that the group had been shooting at them. Jones was charged with illegal possession of a weapon. The trial (with an all-white jury) lasted two weeks; Jones was sentenced to 2-1/2 to 3 years in prison and fined $1000 (the sentence was overturned shortly afterwards by an appeals court).

Correspondence, arranged chronologically, primarily deals with Jones' 1967 arrest and includes letters protesting his treatment and sentence. Senders include poets and authors (Dan Georgakas, Robert Gover, David Ignatow, Will Inman, Walter Lowenfels, Denise Levertov, Henri Percikow), publishers and editors (Elias Boukhara of Smyrna Press, Joseph North and Jacqueline Frieder of American Dialog, Richard Grossman, Poets Press), and organizations such as P.E.N., Publisher's Weekly, the Committee on Poetry, and Fred Halstead and the Socialist Workers' Party. Clippings comprises newspaper and magazine clippings relating to the same incident. Writings consists of several excerpts from Jones' statement concerning the events the night he was arrested, and a single letter from Baraka, postmarked 1974, regarding the Kawaida Towers building project in Newark. Kawaida Towers was a project initiated by the Congress of African Peoples as an attempt to create more, and more livable, low-income housing in Newark. Political issues derailed the project.

Note: A few of the items -- early photostats or photocopies -- are partially or entirely illegible due to degradation of the copy paper. To reduce handling, these have been replaced with regular photocopies of the items (still mostly illegible, unfortunately); the original items are in a folder at the end of the collection.

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Restrictions

Access Restrictions

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

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Subject Headings

Persons

Baraka, Amiri, 1934-
Gover, Robert, 1929-
Ignatow, David, 1914-1997.
Inman, Will, 1923-2009.
Levertov, Denise, 1923-1997.
Lowenfels, Walter, 1897-1976.
North, Joseph.

Corporate Bodies

Kawaida Towers.

Subjects

African American dramatists.
African American poets.
African American political activists.
American literature -- African American authors.
Civil rights -- United States.

Places

Newark, New Jersey.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)
Correspondence.
Telegrams.

Occupations

Activists.
Writers.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Amiri Baraka Collection,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Purchased from Adah C. Blackman Fund, Oct. 2006; purchase, general funds, 2008.

Finding Aid Information

Created by: MRR
Date: 13 Nov 2006
Revision history: 1 Jun 2007 - corrected spellings (MRC)

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Inventory

Correspondence
SC 180 Miscellaneous 1964-1974, undated
Clippings
SC 180 Miscellaneous 1968 - includes editorial from Russian newspaper
Writings
SC 180 Miscellaneous 1967, 1974 - excerpts from Jones' statement concerning the night of July 14, 1967; one letter, regarding Kawaida Towers project

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