Chapter

‘This Black World of Purest Possibility’

LeRoi Jones and Amiri Baraka

in Powers of Possibility

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199609291
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731723 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199609291.003.0003
‘This Black World of Purest Possibility’

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This chapter examines a range of Baraka's writings (poems, plays, and essays) from 1960 to 1979, during which time he changed from being a Beat‐affiliated writer (named LeRoi Jones) to a Black Cultural‐Nationalist, then a Pan‐Afrikanist, and finally a Third‐World Socialist. The opening discussion is of how Baraka in poetry collections like Black Magic (1969) and It's Nation Time (1970) developed a Black Arts potentialism that contrasts with Ginsberg's. Various plays that Baraka wrote in the 1960s are also examined—notably, A Black Mass (1966), Slave Ship (1967), and Great Goodness of Life: A Coon Show (1967). Drawing on Howard University's Amiri Baraka Archive (which includes FBI reports on his plays and speeches), the chapter presents new scholarship on his drama and his cultural activism with groups like the Republic of New Afrika. After examining how Baraka's potentialism reaches a spiritual apogee with his poetry collection Spirit Reach (1972), the concluding discussion contrasts such spiritualism with the didacticism of his Third‐World Socialist writings such as the poetry volume Hard Facts (1975).

Keywords: Black Power; Black Arts movement; Cultural Nationalism; affects; potentiality; performativity; avant‐garde; 1960s; race

Chapter.  18139 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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