Amiri Bakara was born in Newark, New Jersey on October 7, 1934. He was born as Everett Leroi Jones. In 1952 he changed his name to Leroi Jones and in 1967 he changed it to Amiri Bakara. He lived with his parents, his father who was a postal supervisor and his mother who was a social worker. He attended Rutgers University, Colombia University and Howard University studying philosophy and religious studies. He did not obtain a degree from any of the three colleges. Instead, he joined the United States Air Force in 1954 but was later dishonorably discharged because of the discovery of so called communist writings.
After his time in the Air Force, Bakara moved to Greenwich Village and found Totem Press after becoming interested in jazz music. That same year, 1958, he met and married Hettie Cohen and together they worked as editors of Yugen, a literary magazine. The experiences had a powerful influence on his later works of poetry. After the assassination of Malcolm X, Bakara left his wife and two children and moved to Harlem to become what he considered a black cultural nationalist.
In 1966, Bakara married his second wife, who would later change her name to Amina Bakara. In 1967, Bakara joined the staff of San Francisco University as a lecturer. The following year he was arrested for illegally carrying a concealed weapon and for resisting arrest during riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. In the 1970s, Bakara was criticized for several poems he had written that many claimed to have anti-Jewish undertones. This is still a critique that Baraka deals with regarding his more recent works. In later years, Bakara’s 31-year old daughter was murdered and he was listed as one of America’s 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America (Wikipedia, 1).
There is much controversy surrounding the work of Amiri Bakara. He often used violent and graphic imagery in his work that has been aimed at women, gay people,...