12 Quotes From The Late Amiri Baraka

The controversial activist and writer died at the age of 79 today.

Amiri Baraka, the poet, novelist, and activist once known as LeRoi Jones, has died at the age of 79.

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Baraka was a native of Newark, N.J., and was poet laureate of New Jersey from 2002–2003. (The position was eliminated by the state after Baraka published a controversial poem about the Sept. 11, terror attacks that suggesting Jews had advance notice of the terror attacks. ) But despite his controversial views, he was unquestionably integral to the black arts movement in America.

Here are some quotes from Baraka’s career.

1. “A man is either free, or he is not. There cannot be an apprenticeship for freedom.”

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Home: Social Essays, 1966

2. “Art is a weapon in the struggle of ideas, the class struggle.”

Robert Abbott Sengstacke / Getty Images / Via 3ammagazine.com

—Interview with 3:AM Magazine, 2009

3. “There is no justice in America, but it is the fight for justice that sustains you.”

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—Home: Social Essays, 1966

4. “Art is whatever makes you proud to be human.”

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—The Kindly Ones

5. “God has been replaced, as he has all over the West, with respectability and air conditioning.”

Andrew Lepley/Redferns / Via blog.gaiam.com

—Home: Social Essays, 1966

6. “Warriors are poets and poems and all the loveliness here in the worlds.”

Anthony Barboza / Getty Images

—Black Art

7. “Since the rich eat more/ than anybody else/ It is reasonable to assume/ that they are more full of shit.”

Lisa Hancock / FilmMagic

—Class Gas

8. “Thought is more important than art. To revere art and have no understanding of the process that forces it into existence, is finally not even to understand what art is.”

Christopher Felver/Corbis / Via brainyquote.com

—Home: Social Essays, 1966

9. “There is no depth to education without art.”

Robert Abbott Sengstacke / Getty Images

—Digging: The Afro-American Soul of American Classical Music, 2009

10. “If the flag of an armed enemy of the U.S. is allowed to fly over government buildings, then it implies that slavery, or at least the threat of slavery, is sanctioned by that government and can still legally exist.”

Thomas Monaster/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images / Via brainyquote.com

11. “Poetry is music, and nothing but music. Words with musical emphasis.”

Anthony Barboza / Getty Images / Via poetseers.org

12. “The attempt to divide art and politics is a bourgeois which says good poetry, art, cannot be political, but since everything is … political, even an artist or work that claims not to have any politics is making a political statement by that act.”

David Corio/Redferns / Via argotistonline.co.uk

—Interview with Aaron Winslow via The Argotist Online

Watch Baraka perform one of his best known pieces, “The Way Of Things (In Town).”

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