Amiri Baraka, the longtime activist and former poet laureate of New Jersey died today, officials confirmed. He was 79 years old. Baraka was placed in intensive care at Beth Israel Medical Center last month for an unknown reason, but a spokesman for his son's mayoral campaign said his condition was improving late in December.
Newark Mayor Luis Quintana said Baraka will be sorely missed. "I went to visit him at the hospital about two weeks ago," Quintana said by phone. "He was more than poet he was a leader in his own right. He's going to be missed and our condolences go out to his family today."
A Newark native and resident formerly known as Leroi Jones, Amiri Baraka has published dozens of poems, essays and works of non-fiction. In 1963 Amiri Baraka wrote "Blues People," an in-depth history of music from the time of slavery throughout the various incarnations of blues and jazz, with integrated social commentary.
The book's 50th anniversary was recently celebrated during an event at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
Baraka was also the state's poet laureate in 2002 and 2003.