A local literary figure has carved his place in Black History as an established poet, author, publisher and professor of literature.
A local literary figure has carved his place in Black History as an established poet, author, publisher and professor of literature. In 1967 Haki Madhubuti, 68, founded the Third World Press located in the South Shore community. “I started Third World Press along with two other people in my basement apartment because there was nowhere Blacks could publish their writings” he told the Defender. TWP publishes a variety of novels — from children’s books to autobiographies. And Madhubuti has written and published several books including his latest Liberation Narratives: New and Collected Poems 1966-2009. He is currently writing two books and hopes to publish them by year-end. Madhubuti may be best known for his tenure at Chicago State University where he also founded the Gwendolyn Brooks Center. The school’s Gwendolyn Brooks Center Conference for Black Literature and Creative Writing each year draws big name authors such as Nikki Giovanni and others. After 26 years Madhubuti retired last year from CSU and now teaches at DePaul University as a professor with its Ida B. Wells-Barnett Center. He has also taught at Historically Black Colleges and Universities — Howard University in Washington, D.C. and Morgan State University in Baltimore. Locally, he taught at the University of Illinois-Chicago and Columbia College Chicago, and also at the University of Iowa and Cornell University in New York. Having never earned a bachelor’s degree but an associate degree, Madhubuti did earn a master’s of Fine Arts in the Creative Writing program at the University of Iowa. Madhubuti, who also founded four Chicago schools, said educating young folks about Black history comes natural for him. He started or helped to start Institute of Positive Education/New Concept School, Betty Shabazz International Charter School, Barbara A. Sizemore Middle School and the DuSable Leadership Academy. All the schools focus on teaching students about African heritage. Further, Madhubuti said Chicago Public Schools should educate students about their respective school’s namesake. “I went through elementary and high school without one teacher assigning me to read a book about Blacks or written by Blacks. And I was not taught about the school’s name,” he added. “I graduated from Dunbar High School but had to learn about him (Paul Laurence Dunbar) on my own.” At age 13 Madhubuti developed an interest in Black literature after going to a Detroit library and reading the book Black Boy by Richard Wright. “After reading this book it inspired me to want to become a writer,” recalls Madhubuti. “Once I started reading Black literature, it changed my life.” Calling the late W.E. B. DuBois and Paul Roberson his “adopted grandfathers” the former Army veteran said both men had a great influence on his life. The South Shore resident is a father of six children has been married for 36 years to his wife, a college professor of Education at Northwestern University. In 1964 Madhubuti, formerly Donald Lee, changed his name to an African one. He did so because “I was looking for authenticity and I had accomplished all I could as Donald Lee.” Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender