As both writer and activist, initially known as LeRoi Jones, Baraka’s was a unique if sometimes contentious voice, especially in his contributions to the black arts movement of the 1960’s. Always active across a broader front, he credited Ginsberg with helping him find his voice; Kerouac, Olson and O’Hara were among other mentor-friends. Baldwin advised the young poet to be true to himself. Hughes (a profound influence) said some harsh things about him, though with a father-figure’s compassion. Baraka wrote Roach’s biography, scrapped with Mingus, was delighted to find Coltrane had read him, and gave Simone house-room for several months.
Bataille and Breton fell out but cautiously made up. Adorno, Benjamin and Lévi-Strauss gave lectures to his College of Sociology — Caillois, Leiris and Klossowski were members. Bellmer and Masson collaborated with him, Limbour and Queneau worked on his journal ‘Documents’ and were close friends, while Barthes, Foucault, Derrida and Blanchot had work published through his journal ‘Critique’. Leiris and Blanchot joined discussion groups he organised. Balthus gave him houseroom after a relationship ended. Picasso, Ernst and Miró raised money to help him over hard times; Giacometti was among other artist friends.