Lilly Library Manuscript Collections

BARAKA MSS.

The Baraka mss., 1981-2003, consist of the notebooks and unpublished works of poet Amiri Baraka.

Cari Amiri Baraka was born Everett LeRoi Jones in Newark, New Jersey, on October 7, 1934, to Colt LeRoy Jones, a postal supervisor, and Anna Lois Jones, a social worker. He attended Rutgers University for two years and then transferred to Howard University, earning his B.A. in English in 1954. After serving in the Air Force from 1954 until 1957, he moved to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where he joined a loose circle of Greenwich Village artists, musicians, and writers. The following year he married Hettie Cohen and together began co-editing the avant-garde literary magazine Yugen. That year he also founded Totem Press, which first published works by Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and others.

The author of over 40 books of essays, poems, drama, and music history and criticism, Baraka is a poet icon and revolutionary political activist who has recited poetry and lectured on cultural and political issues extensively in the United States, the Caribbean, Africa, and Europe. He is the recipient of numerous literary prizes and honors, including fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Rockefeller Foundation Award for Drama, the Langston Hughes Award from The City College of New York, and a lifetime achievement award from the Before Columbus Foundation. He has taught poetry at the New School for Social Research in New York, literature at the University of Buffalo, and drama at Columbia University as well as San Francisco State University, Yale University and George Washington University.

With influences on his work ranging from musical orishas such as Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, and Sun Ra to the Cuban Revolution, Malcolm X and world revolutionary movements, Baraka is renowned as the founder of the Black Arts Movement in Harlem in the 1960s that became, though short-lived, the virtual blueprint for a new American theater aesthetic. The movement and his published and performance work, such as the signature study on African-American music, Blues People (1963) and the play Dutchman (1963) practically seeded "the cultural corollary to black nationalism" of that revolutionary American milieu.

Acquired: 2005

Collection size: 21 items

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