Amiri Baraka died Thursday after weeks of failing health, a family spokeperson confirmed. He was 79.
A playwright, poet, critic and activist, Baraka was one of the most prominent and controversial African American voices in the world of American letters.
He was born Everett LeRoi Jones on Oct. 7, 1934, in Newark, N.J. A gifted student, he graduated from high school two years early and went to college at New York University and Howard University. After serving in the Air Force for more than two years, Baraka — then Jones — was dishonorably discharged for reading communist texts.
He then moved to New York, attending graduate school at Columbia University and becoming involved in the Beat scene. In 1958, he founded the avant-garde poetry magazine Yugen, which he co-edited with Hettie Cohen — the two were married from 1960 to 1965.
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