Celebrated writer and activist Amiri Baraka died on Jan. 9 at the age of 79 in Newark, N.J.
A controversial poet, playwright, essayist and critic, Baraka helped lead the Black Arts movement of the 1960s and was an internationally known activist. Baraka’s death was confirmed by Newark Mayor Luis Quintana and other public officials, reports the Washington Post. The cause of his death has not been provided, but Baraka had been in intensive care since December for an unknown cause.
Baraka -- who first began writing in the 1950s -- made his mark in the 1960s with his controversial plays and connection to the Black Nationalist movement. Born Everett LeRoi Jones, the Newark native later changed his identity from that of a black nationalist to a Marxist in the 1970s. At the time, he stepped away from the anti-gay, anti-Semitic and misogynist statements he had made as he became focused on liberation movements across the globe.
He received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Langston Hughes Award, and a PEN Open Book Award, along with numerous other honors. In memory of the multi-talented writer and activist, we’ve gathered 15 of his most memorable quotes here.
1. “A man is either free, or he is not. There cannot be an apprenticeship for freedom.”
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2. "A rich man told me recently that a liberal is a man who tells other people what to do with their money." — Tokenism: 300 years for Five Cents3.
3. “Art is a weapon in the struggle of ideas, the class struggle.”
4. “There is no justice in America, but it is the fight for justice that sustains you.”
5. "To name something is to wait for it in the place you think it will pass." — Controlled Chaos: The Nature of Free Music
6. “There is no depth to education without art.”
7. "Thought is more important than art. To revere art and have no understanding of the process that forces it into existence, is finally not even to understand what art is." — Home: Social Essays 8.
8. "God has been replaced, as he has all over the West, with respectability and air conditioning."
9. “The attempt to divide art and politics is a bourgeois which says good poetry, art, cannot be political, but since everything is … political, even an artist or work that claims not to have any politics is making a political statement by that act.”
10. "A man is either free or he is not. There cannot be any apprenticeship for freedom." — Home: Social Essays
11. “Art is whatever makes you proud to be human.”
12. "Warriors are poets and poems and all the loveliness here in the worlds.”
13. “God has been replaced, as he has all over the West, with respectability and air conditioning.”
14. “Poetry is music, and nothing but music. Words with musical emphasis.”
15. "The African, because of the violent differences between what was native and what he was forced to in slavery, developed some of the most complex and complicated ideas about the world imaginable."