Playwright Amiri Baraka, who gained famed in the 1960s as the author of Dutchman and other fiery, racially-charged dramas, may be forced out of his position as Poet Laureate of New Jersey. Baraka has been under attack from state politicians because of his poem "Somebody Blew Up America," which, according to 1010 WINS radio, implied that the United States and Israel has prior knowledge of the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center terrorist attacks. Officials have been calling for Baraka, who is nearly 70 years old, to step down as Poet Laureate, but the dramatist has refused. The New Jersey legislature is currently entertaining a bill that would eliminate the position of Poet Laureate.
Baraka was born Leroi Jones and spent the first part of his career under that name. The Dutchman, which created a sensation in 1964, is a allegorical tale of U.S. race relations in which a white woman stalks the subways for upwardly mobile African-American men. His other plays include The Slave, A Black Mass and Slave Ship.
—By Robert Simonson