Interview with Amiri Baraka

So was it a big personal decision for you?


Well at the time it was, you know, part of the spirit of the time. The zeitgeist it was something we wanted to do Whatever we thought we had to do to do it, we were gonna do it. It didn't make any difference to us. The question of the slave name actually was kind of a, we thought of it as an honour to take on African names, you know to get rid of you know--and actually, if you look at our history, you'll find it's not the first time. Although Black people right up to the Civil War abandoned the slave master's name, they would take on Anglo sounding names, most of them. Some of them took on other names, but they would change their names anyway, because they didn't want to be named after their slave masters, so they would drop that name and take names. So Black people would change their names. See the thing about Black history is, why it's so important, is the things that we think that we're doing for the first time we find have been done before. Black people have burnt down every city, Black people have burned down every major city in the United States at least twice, except the ones that just got settled. I mean they burnt down New York city twice before the nineteenth century. I mean they had burnt it down in the eighteenth century. In terms of--they burnt down New Orleans and Birmingham and Atlanta for the same reasons. So in terms of our history, once you know it, you see that Black people have been trying to get out of this for a long time and they've been doing the same things.