Saturday, June 8, 2024

Covering Amiri Baraka in Negro Digest/Black World magazine

There's no doubt that Amiri Baraka's talents and productivity as a literary artist, critic, and activist made him one of our most important writers and cultural figures. But just as important, the coverage of him, his works, and activities contributed to the elevation of Amiri Baraka. 

I was taking a look at old issues of the magazine Negro Digest, later named Black World, and I noticed that Baraka was mentioned dozens of entries. Writers for the publication would cite his works, list his upcoming publications, or mention his presence at various literary gatherings.

In one instance, Baraka, then known as LeRoi Jones, was not in attendance at an event, but people wondered about him. "Is that LeRoi Jones?" someone asked, reported David Llorens at a Black Writers Festival in 1966.  

Baraka even appears on the covers of various issues, including headshot images in September 1965, April 1966, April 1970, and November 1974. He appears alone in a full image on the April 1967 cover. He appears alone again in a headshot image on the cover of the January 1969 issue.

And that's to say nothing of the many times photos of Baraka appeared throughout the publication. My sense is that between 1964 and 1976, Baraka appeared more than any other writer. He appeared as contributor, reference, and photographic subject.  

As the most frequently referenced Black writer in the most widely available Black magazine, there's no small wonder Baraka became and remains so important.

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