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Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka) Collection

An inventory of the collection at Syracuse University


Finding aid created by: FED
Date: 1971



Biographical History

Everett LeRoi Jones was born on October 7, 1934 in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Coyette LeRoi and Anna Russ Jones. In his youth he showed considerable aptitude as a student, graduating from high school two years ahead of his class. Jones received a B.A. from Howard University in 1953, and spent the following two years in the United States Air Force.

Jones then settled in New York City and did graduate work in comparative literature at Columbia. He began to develop his talents as a poet and critic, becoming associated with what was known as the "Beat Generation" in the East Village. There Jones edited Yugen, a magazine of underground poetry, and co-edited a literary newsletter, the Floating Bear. With other poets, including Diane Di Prima, he founded the American Theatre for Poets, an avant garde Village dramatic group, in 1961. Jones read his verse in coffeehouses, and two volumes of his poems, Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note and The Dead Lecturer, were published.

After a visit to Cuba in 1960, Jones began to condemn American culture, seeing American blacks as its victims. This theme was elaborated in his book Blues People: Negro Music in White America, published in 1963.

Jones' debut as a professional off-Broadway playwright came in 1964 with Dutchman, a shocking drama of interracial hostility. It ran for nearly a year in New York and was also presented abroad. Two more of his plays presented the following season, The Toilet and The Slave, were less successful.

In the mid-1960's LeRoi Jones wrote The System of Dante's Hell, an autobiographical novel, as well as Home: Social Essays and Tales. In 1965 he moved to Harlem where he founded the Black Arts Repertory Theatre. The following year Jones returned to Newark, N.J. and began "Spirit House", a multi-faceted black cultural workshop similar to his previous program in Harlem. In Newark he founded the Black Community Development and Defense Organization (BCD), a group of men and women dedicated to the "creation of a new value system for the Afro-American community", with stress placed upon elements of African culture. The group is of the Muslim faith and Jones now uses his Muslim name, Ameer Baraka. He has recently written several one-act plays for black audiences, including Slave Ship, Resurrection in Life, Great Goodness for Life (A Coon Show), Arm Yourself or Harm Yourself, and A Recent Killing. Jones occupies a position of political leadership in the black communities of Newark.

Jones' first marriage was to Hettie Cohen, his co-editor of Yugen. They had two children. He now lives at Spirit House with his second wife, Amini, their son, Ras Jua Al Aziz, and Mrs. Baraka's three daughters by a previous marriage.


Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka) Collection consist of the personal, literary and publishing records of LeRoi Jones, an American poet, playwright and black separatist leader. The materials have been organized into four sections: Correspondence, Memorabilia, Writings and Yugen magazine records.

Correspondence is primarily incoming and relate to Jones' literary, political and personal concerns. The 1967-1968 correspondence pertains to the arrest of Jones and others during protests at the site of the Kawaida Towers housing project in Newark, New Jersey.

Memorabilia includes a calendar, a collage, newspaper clippings, printed matter, publisher's flyers, photographs, programs, and material related to the Casa de las Americas and the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. Of particular interest in this series is a portrait print of Jones by New York School artist Larry Rivers, signed by both Rivers and Jones.

Writings contains works by Jones and others. Jones' works include articles and essays, fiction and nonfiction books, book reviews, introductions, music reviews, plays, short stories and verse. The materials are in various stages of draft as well as in the final published versions. Works by other authors include reviews of Jones' books by Ralph Ellison and Phillip Roth.

Yugen magazine records consist of material related to the literary magazine of which Jones was the editor. Included here are authors' manuscripts, dummies, page proofs, promotional and published versions of the periodical. The authors' manuscripts, which include verse, plays and prose submitted by various noted writers, include Allen Ginsberg, Diane Di Prima, Jack Kerouac, and William S. Burroughs.


Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence is arranged chronologically. Memorabilia is arranged alphabetically by type. Writings are arranged alphabetically first by author, then by type of work and finally by title. Yugen records are organized first by the number of the issue, then by the type of material.


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.


Subject Headings

Persons

Ashbery, John, 1927-
Baraka, Amiri, 1934-
Blackburn, Paul.
Blaser, Robin.
Boyd, Bruce.
Burroughs, William S., 1914-1997.
Carroll, Paul.
Corso, Gregory.
Creeley, Robert, 1926-2005.
Dahlberg, Edward, 1900-1977.
Di Prima, Diane.
Dorn, Edward.
Eigner, Larry, 1927-1996.
Ginsberg, Allen, 1926-1997.
Guest, Barbara.
Jonas, Stephen.
Kerouac, Jack, 1922-1969.
Koch, Kenneth, 1925-2002.
Lamantia, Philip, 1927-2005.
Loewinsohn, Ron
Lowenfels, Walter, 1897-1976.
Marshall, Edward, 1932-
McClure, Michael.
Meltzer, David.
O'Hara, Frank, 1926-1966.
Olson, Charles, 1910-1970.
Oppenheimer, Joel.
Perkoff, Stuart Z.
Rivers, Larry, 1925-2002.
Snyder, Gary.
Sorrentino, Gilbert.
Stanley, George, 1934-
Whalen, Philip.
Wieners, John, 1934-2002.
Williams, William Carlos, 1883-1963.

Associated Titles

Yugen.

Subjects

African American dramatists.
African American novelists.
African American poets.
African Americans -- Biography.
American literature -- 20th century.
American literature -- African American authors.
American poetry -- 20th century.
Authors, American.
Bohemianism.
Literature, Experimental.
Muslims, Black -- Biography.
Periodical editors -- United States.
Periodicals -- Publishing -- United States.

Genres and Forms

Articles.
Book reviews.
Clippings (information artifacts)
Correspondence.
Essays.
Manuscripts for publication.
Photographs.
Poems.
Scripts (documents)

Occupations

Authors.
Editors.
Novelists.
Playwrights.
Poets.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka) Collection,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Purchased in part from the Adah C. Blackman Fund, 2006. Remainder, purchase 1966-1971, 2008, 2013.


Table of Contents

Correspondence

Memorabilia

Writings

Yugen magazine records


Inventory