Amiri Baraka, formerly known as LeRoi Jones and Imamu Amear Baraka, was an African-American writer of poetry, drama, fiction, essays and music criticism. He was the author of numerous books of poetry and taught at a number of universities, including the State University of New York at Buffalo and the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He received the PEN Open Book Award, formerly known as the Beyond Margins Award, in 2008 for Tales of the Out and the Gone.
Baraka's poetry and writing has attracted both extreme praise and condemnation. Within the African-American community, some compare him to James Baldwin and call Baraka one of the most respected and most widely published Black writers of his generation. Others have said his work is an expression of violence, misogyny, homophobia and racism.
Baraka's brief tenure as Poet Laureate of New Jersey, involved controversy over a public reading of his poem "Somebody Blew Up America?" and accusations of anti-semitism, and some negative attention from critics, and politicians.