Haki R. Madhubuti

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Haki R. Madhubuti
Haki madhubuti 7624.JPG
BornDon Luther Lee
(1942-02-23) February 23, 1942 (age 77)
Little Rock, Arkansas United States
Alma materIowa Writers' Workshop
Literary movementBlack Arts Movement
Notable worksThird World Press
Notable awardsAmerican Book Award

Haki R. Madhubuti (born Don Luther Lee on February 23, 1942, in Little Rock, Arkansas, United States) is an African-American author, educator, and poet, as well as a publisher and operator of black-themed bookstore.

Madhubuti is a much sought-after poet and lecturer, and has convened workshops and served as guest/keynote speaker at thousands of colleges, universities, libraries and community centers in the U.S. and abroad.

The name Haki means "just" or "justice," and Madhubuti means "precise, accurate and dependable," both names deriving from the Swahili language. He changed his name in 1974.[1]


Born Donald Luther Lee in Little Rock, Arkansas, Madhubuti adopted his current Swahili name after visiting Africa in the early 1970s. Madhubuti was raised in Detroit, Michigan with his mother until the age of sixteen when she died from a drug overdose. Madhubuti claims that his mother, Maxine, is the prime force behind his creativity and interest in the Black Arts. After serving in the U.S. Army from 1960 to 1963, Madhubuti received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the prestigious Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa.[2]

Haki Madhubuti became deeply interested in and influenced by the Black Arts and figures such as Richard Wright at an early age[3]. He is a major contributor to the Black literary tradition, in particular through his early association with the Black Arts Movement beginning in the mid-1960s, and has had a lasting and major influence.[4] Recognizing the lack of resources and institutions dedicated to black scholars, Madhubuti has become a leading proponent of independent Black institutions. He is the founder, publisher, and chairman of the board of Third World Press (established in 1967), which today is the largest independent black-owned press in the United States.[5]

In December 1967, Haki R. Madhubuti met with Carolyn Rodgers and Johari Amini in the basement of a South Side apartment to found Third World Press, an outlet for African-American literature.[1] By 2007, the company continued, 40 years later, to thrive in a multimillion-dollar facility. Over the years, this press would publish works for Pulitzer Prize-winning author Gwendolyn Brooks, as well as Sonia Sanchez, Sterling Plumpp and Pearl Cleage.[6]

Heavily influenced by his creative predecessor Gwendolyn Brooks, Madhubuti's poetry is similar marked by a rhythmic, experimental style, frequently in the free verse form. Also like Brooks, Madhubuti's poetic bibliography is characterized by a shift from the personal to the political over the span of his career. He has dedicated a number of poems to her and is the founder and previously the director emeritus of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing[7].

Over the years, he has published 28 books[8] (some under his former name, "Don L. Lee") and remains one of the world's best-selling authors of poetry and non-fiction, with books in print in excess of 3 million. His subsequent books include Claiming Earth: Race, Rage, Rape, Redemption (1994), GroundWork: New and Selected Poems 1966–1996 (1996), and HeartLove: Wedding and Love Poems (1998).

Madhubuti has also co-edited two volumes of literary works from "Gallery 37", releasing The Spirit (1998), and Describe the Moment (2000). His poetry and essays were published in over 30 anthologies from 1997 to 2001. He also wrote Tough Notes: A Healing Call For Creating Exceptional Black Men (2002). Perhaps his most famous work, Black Men: Obsolete, Single, Dangerous?: The African American Family in Transition, a nonfiction book about African American social issues, was published in 1990 and has sold more than 1,000,000 copies[9].

Besides co-founding a publishing company, Madhubuti is the co-founder of the Institute of Positive Education/New Concept Development Center (established in 1969), and co-founder of the Betty Shabazz International Charter School (established 1998) in Chicago, Illinois. He is also a founder and board member of the National Association of Black Book Publishers, a founder and chairman of the board of The International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent, and founder and director of the National Black Writers Retreat. Prior to stepping down, Madhubuti held the position of Distinguished University Professor, co-founder and director emeritus of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing and director of the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program at Chicago State University.[10]

Madhubuti's 2005 book, Yellow Black, is an autobiographical novel detailing the first 21 years of his life.[11] He currently resides in Chicago, Illinois, with his wife Safisha (Carol D. Lee), Professor Emerita at Northwestern University[12].

Selected publications[edit]

  • Black Men: Obsolete, Single, Dangerous?: The African American Family in Transition (1990)
  • Claiming Earth: Race, Rage, Rape, Redemption (1994)
  • GroundWork: New and Selected Poems 1966–1996 (1996)
  • HeartLove: Wedding and Love Poems (1998)
  • Yellow Black: The First Twenty-One Years of a Poet's Life (2005)


  1. ^ a b "Haki Madhubuti". Poetry Foundation.
  2. ^ Turner, Melissa (December 1, 2009). "Haki R. Madhubuti (Don L. Lee) (1942–)". blackpast.org. Retrieved December 17, 2015.
  3. ^ https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/madhubuti-haki-r-don-l-lee-1942/
  4. ^ "Library System - Howard University". howard.edu. Retrieved December 17, 2015.
  5. ^ Amy Alexander, "Tavis Smiley's Covenant", The Nation, September 18, 2006.
  6. ^ "Black America Web". Black America Web. Retrieved December 17, 2015.
  7. ^ https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/50782/gwendolyn-brooks
  8. ^ "National Advisory Council". americanwritersmuseum.org. Retrieved December 17, 2015.
  9. ^ https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/madhubuti-haki-r-don-l-lee-1942/
  10. ^ "Haki Madhubuti". poets.org. Retrieved December 17, 2015.
  11. ^ "'Yellow Black': Autobiography of a Poet", NPR, November 2, 2005.
  12. ^ https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/madhubuti-haki-r-don-l-lee-1942/

Further reading[edit]

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