Amiri Baraka speaks and reads poetry at Dillard University on March 25, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Skip Bolen/WireImage)
Activist, author, poet and playwright Amiri Baraka died today. The Newark, New Jersey native was 79 years old.
Originally born Leroi Jones, Baraka had been in intensive care at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City since last month for an unknown reason. Baraka had long battled diabetes, but it was not unclear what the cause of death was.
Baraka, a former New Jersey poet laureate, published dozens of poems, essays and works of non-fiction. Some of his work was deemed controversial. In 1963, Baraka wrote one of his most famous works, “Blues People,” an in-depth history that traced music from the time of to the creation of blues and jazz. The book also included Baraka’s social commentary.