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Author, Poet and Activist Amiri Baraka Passes On at 79

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Amiri Baraka
Amiri Baraka
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Famous author, playwright, poet, essayist, music critic and thought leader Amiri Baraka has died at 79, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The New Jersey native entered the hospital in December for an undisclosed illness. Newark Mayor Luis Quintana said Baraka will be sorely missed.

"I went to visit him at the hospital about two weeks ago," said Quintana to NJ.com. "He was more than a poet, he was a leader in his own right. He's going to be missed and our condolences go out to his family."

Baraka wrote many works in his lifetime, perhaps none more famous than Blues People: Negro Music in White America, which was published in 1963. His play "Dutchman" won an Obie Award for best American play in 1964.

He also famously led the Black Arts Movement—a branch of the Black Power movement in the '60s. That movement included major authors Nikki Giovanni, Gil-Scott Heron, Gwendolyn Brooks, Eldridge Cleaver, Ishmael Reed, Quincy Troupe, Lorraine Hansberry and Maya Angelou.

In 2002, Baraka, formerly known as LeRoi Jones and Imamu Amear Baraka, was selected as New Jersey's second Poet Laureate. He held the position until it was eliminated in 2003.

Newark City Council President Mildred Crump, a family friend of Baraka's, said America lost "a great human being." "He was a legend in his own lifetime. It is such a loss, such a great loss." Crump recalls seeing him just a few days ago, "He fought a good fight. I was there the first night he went into the hospital. I was there when he was breathing on his own, I was there Sunday."

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