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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

15. Poetry of Liberation

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
•  Timeline
•  Activities
- Overview Questions
- Video
- Author
- Context
- Creative Response
- PBL Projects

Activities: Author Activities

Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) - Author Questions

Back Back to Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) Activities
  1. Comprehension: Why does Baraka choose the subway as a setting for Dutchman? What is significant about his choice?

  2. Comprehension: Were you surprised by the ending of Dutchman? Why do you think Baraka chose to end the play this way? What do you take away from the play? How might it be read as a politically charged drama?

  3. Comprehension: In "A Poem for Willie Best," who is Willie Best? Why did Baraka dedicate a poem to him? Baraka uses numerous parentheses in this poem. What is the effect of this stylistic choice? Why are some of the parentheses left open?

  4. Context: Both Amiri Baraka and Langston Hughes wrote with political agendas, though Baraka's philosophy tended to be more militant and separatist than Hughes's. Both poets also wrote about both the average black man and the black artist. Compare Hughes's "Note on Commercial Theatre," "The Weary Blues," and "Song for a Dark Girl" to Baraka's "A Poem for Willie Best," a poem about a black character actor. What techniques do these poets share? How are their works different?

  5. Exploration: Using drama as a way to incite public action is not a new concept. Indeed, in 1907, John M. Synge's production of Playboy of the Western World at the Abbey Theater incited riots in Ireland because audiences felt it was offensive. Why is it that drama seems able to stir people to action? Along with Baraka and Synge, you might also consider W. B. Yeats (Catherine Ni Houlihan) and Arthur Miller (The Crucible).

  6. Exploration: Although the Black Arts movement has waned, there are still artists and audiences who believe in black separatism. How has Baraka influenced contemporary culture? Do you see evidence of his teachings and practices today? You might consider rap music, hip-hop, and film in your answer.

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