Friday, September 18, 2015

An early poem for Malcolm X

"A Poem for Black Hearts"
Shortly after Malcolm X was assassinated in February 1965, dozens of poets began producing poems to honor the slain leader. "A Poem for Black Hearts" by Amiri Baraka (then LeRoi Jones) was one the earliest poems dedicated to Malcolm to gain national exposure when it appeared in the September 1965 issue of Negro Digest.

A note beneath the poem reads "April, 1965," a signal that Baraka's poem was produced even closer to the time of Malcolm's death. The April 1965 is also noteworthy as the month and year that Baraka and his collaborators launched the Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School in Harlem.

 In retrospect, the appearance of the poem  in September also carries significance. The September 1965 publication was the first time that the cover carried the designation "Annual Poetry Issue." That designation would continue to appear each September after that.

Finally, the poet's name was written as "Le Roi," not "LeRoi" as it usually appears. At various moments in the pages of Negro Digest/Black World, we come across the names "Le Roi Jones," "LeRoi Jones," "Ameer Baraka," "Imamu Amiri Baraka," and "Amiri Baraka"  in reference to this one poet. His name(s) as well as the name "Malcolm X" appeared regularly in the magazine.

Blogging about Black World magazine

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