LeRoi Jones (aka Amiri Baraka) is a poet, writer, political activist and teacher. He was born in 1934, in Newark, New Jersey. He graduated from Howard University in 1953, and published his first major book of poetry, Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note, in 1961. He founded Totem Press in 1958, which first published works by Kerouac, Ginsberg and other lesser-known writers of the time period.
Jones was also an accomplished playwright. His play Dutchman opened off-broadway and received critical acclaim. In Dutchman, an encounter between a white woman and a black intellectual exposes the suppressed anger and hostility of American blacks toward the dominant white culture. In 1965, he founded the Black Arts Repertory Theatre in Harlem, and in 1968, he founded the Black Community Development and Defense Organization, a Muslim group committed to affirming black culture and to gaining political power for blacks.
In 1968, LeRoi Jones changed his name to Amiri Baraka in reverence of his Muslim beliefs. He has taught at several universities, and continues to write to this day.