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Renowned poet, author and playwright Amiri Baraka died on Thursday, January 9. He was 79-years-old. 

A popular figure in Black nationalist circles formerly known as LeRoi Jones, Baraka passed away in his Newark, New Jersey.

Reports the New York Times:

His death, at Beth Israel Medical Center, was confirmed by his son Ras Baraka, a member of the Newark Municipal Council. He did not specify a cause but said that Mr. Baraka had been hospitalized since Dec. 21.

Mr. Baraka was famous as one of the major forces in the Black Arts movement of the 1960s and ’70s, which sought to duplicate in fiction, poetry, drama and other mediums the aims of the black power movement in the political arena.

Among his best-known works are the poetry collections “The Dead Lecturer” and “Transbluesency: The Selected Poetry of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones, 1961-1995”; the play “Dutchman”; and “Blues People: Negro Music in White America,” a highly regarded historical survey.

Baraka was once New Jersey’s poet laureate. However, controversy over what were perceived as anti-Semitic remarks in a poem he wrote about the September 11 terrorist attack led to the dissolution of the position.

Read the always divisive but insightful Baraka’s full obituary over at the New York Times.

Photo: Ruth Fremson/The New York Times