African-American poet, critic, and dramatist known for works such as Blues People: Negro Music in White America (nonfiction), The System of Dante's Hell (fiction), A Black Mass (drama), and Slave Ship (poems). He served as Poet Laureate of New Jersey from 2002-2003.
He attended Rutgers University and Columbia University. He published his first poetic work, Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note, in 1961.
His 2006 fiction work, Tales of the Out and the Gone, received the PEN Open Book Award in 2008.
He had two daughters with writer Hettie Cohen. With his second wife, Amina Baraka (born Sylvia Robinson), he had seven more children.
He appeared in Bulworth, a 1998 film that starred Warren Beatty as Senator Jay Billington Bulworth.