Everett LeRoi Jones was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1932. He started writing poetry while working in a library during a stint in the US Air Force and later met and published many members of the Beat Generation in numerous periodicals such as Yugen, Kulchur, The Floating Bear Press, and Totem Press. Jones was a well known poet and playwright on the scene, and changed his name to Amiri Baraka after the assassination of Malcolm X.
1967 has been referred to by many historians as the “Long Hot Summer.” There was civil unrest in 159 cities across the United States that year. One of the most violent occurred in Newark, New Jersey, after a black cab driver, John William Smith, was arrested and severely beaten by police. On July 12th, rumors circulated throughout the city that Smith had died, sparking five days of confrontation that left 26 dead and hundreds injured.
Photographer Fred McDarrah captured one of the most compelling photographs taken of those events, showing Amiri Baraka bloodied and in chains after his arrest.
Today, Baraka’s son, Ras Baraka, is the mayor of Newark.