Amiri Baraka Dead At 79

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January 9, 2014 | 8:41pm EST

Controversial poet and playwright Amiri Baraka has died at the age of 79.
Baraka passed away on Thursday in New Jersey, weeks after battling a mystery illness in the hospital, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The author, who was born Everett LeRoi Jones, was best known for his book Blues People: Negro Music in White America, which was published in 1963.
He also wrote several plays including The Black Mass and The Toilet and Dutchman, which won an Obie Award for Best American Play in 1964.
In addition to the Obie accolade, Baraka was also awarded the PEN/Faulkner Award, a Rockefeller Foundation Award for Drama, and the Langston Hughes Award and, in 2002, he was selected as New Jersey’s second Poet Laureate.
Baraka was also known for his controversial political views – in 2001, he penned the provocative Somebody Blew Up America, a piece about the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The poem, which suggested Israeli officials had prior knowledge of the bombings, was denounced as anti-Semitic and cost Baraka his post as New Jersey’s poet laureate. He held the role until 2003, when state politicians abolished the job after he refused to resign.

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