The Essays of Amiri Baraka Essay - The Political Essays of the Late 1960’s and 1970’s

Amiri Baraka

The Political Essays of the Late 1960’s and 1970’s

Raise Race Rays Raze (1971) contains essays that are essentially polemical and are so much addressed to their specific moment that they have not been collected in later editions of Baraka’s work. These essays reflect Baraka’s adoption of the Kawaida philosophy articulated by Maulana Ron Karenga, leader of the militant Los Angeles-based group US. Kawaida, described by Karenga as a black value system, is based on seven moral principles known as the Nguzo Saba and is the basis of the popular year-end holiday called Kwanzaa, which many African Americans embrace as an alternative to increasingly commercialized Christmas celebrations. Baraka’s essays of this period have a sort of religious fervor. They discuss the tactics of grassroots political organizing more often than they engage the political effects of music and poetry. Such grassroots organizing culminated in the National Black Political Convention held in Gary, Indiana, in 1972.

By the middle of the 1970’s, Baraka had abandoned Black Nationalism and electoral politics and had begun describing himself as a Third World Marxist-Leninist. The political essays included in Daggers and Javelins (1984) confront global issues and anticolonial revolutions in the developing world and are written from a perspective that Baraka admits has “all the fervor of a recent convert.” The collection’s literary essays reflect the same viewpoint and attempt to discern a revolutionary tradition in African American culture that might parallel anticolonial political struggles. Many of these pieces are relatively brief hortatory speeches, ideological lectures,...

(The entire section is 665 words.)