The Autobiography of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka Analysis

Amiri Baraka

Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In his early roles as poet, dramatist, radical organizer, and spokesperson for African-American causes, LeRoi Jones’s public, outspoken, and sometimes fiery side provided many opportunities to be misunderstood. Surely that was the impetus for Jones, who changed his name to Amiri Baraka, to write The Autobiography of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, a detailed account of the first forty years of his life. Baraka shows the connections between diverse personal and public worlds in nine chapters. The first eight chapters segment significant stages in Baraka’s development, moving from childhood and adolescence to the world of arts and letters and political activism. The final chapter summarizes his successes and failures and defines the “true” LeRoi Jones, who, he suggests, few have understood. The Autobiography of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka is a complicated amalgamation of seemingly disparate elements of personality: LeRoi Jones the exuberant streetwise adolescent, the experimental modern poet and dramatist, the radical political leader, and the son, lover, friend, and father.

The book begins in Newark, New Jersey, with Baraka’s attempt to understand his ancestors—the “black, brown, tan” world of African-American culture. Baraka details the separation of white and black worlds in the 1930’s and 1940’s, as well as the diversity within the African-American community. As an adolescent, he is drawn outside his family into the world of...

(The entire section is 505 words.)


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Benston, Kimberly W. Baraka: The Renegade and the Mask. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1976.

Benston, Kimberly, W., ed. Imamu Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones): A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1978.

Brown, Lloyd W. Amiri Baraka. Boston: Twayne, 1980.

Fox, Robert Elliot. “LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka: A Scripture of Rhythms.” In Conscientious Sorcerors: The Black Postmodernist Fiction of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, Ishmael Reed, and Samuel R. Delany. New York: Greenwood Press, 1987.

Harris, William J. The Poetry and Poetics of Amiri Baraka: The Jazz Aesthetic. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1986.

Hudson, Theodore R. From LeRoi Jones to Amiri Baraka: The Literary Works. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1973.

Lacey, Henry C. To Raise, Destroy, and Create: The Poetry, Drama, and Fiction of Imamu Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones). Troy, N.Y.: Whitston, 1981.

Watts, Jerry G. Amiri Baraka: The Politics and Art of a Black Intellectual. New York: New York University Press, 2001.

Woodard, Komozi. A Nation Within a Nation: Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) and Black Power Politics. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.