He started from a humble beginning to become a literary colossus in the 1960s. Dr. Haki Madhubuti, born Don L. Lee, in Little Rock, Arkansas, had to shoulder the burden of growing up in a struggling family in Detroit and Chicago.
He is acclaimed for his literary prowess as a poet and a leading member of the black power movement. Dr. Madhubuti’s interest in literary works was sparked when he was a young boy in Detroit. He recounted some early books like Black Boy by Chicagoan Richard Wright he used to read when his mother charged him to go to the public library.
He said the depictions of the life of black people in the book enthralled his imagination that he couldn’t let go of the book till he finished reading it page by page in a day. After that experience, he visited the library regularly in search of every book that had been written by Wright.
Dr. Madhubuti, according to Publishers Weekly, took inspiration from prolific poets like Gwendolyn Brooks and Dudley Randall. He is quoted as saying that he owes his literary success and the setting up of the Third World Press Foundation to Brooks and Randall. He said Brooks especially had an immense influence on his works when he first met him in the 1960s.
The renowned author said he was motivated to establish the Third World Press business from ideas he picked from Randall. Randall was the mastermind behind many of the works of well-known black poets in the early 60s.
Brooks’ publishing house, Broadside press, was in charge of putting the works of Brooks, Sonia Sanchez, Audre Lorde and Madhubuti on bookshelves. Dr. Madhubuti recounted that he developed the business idea of becoming a publisher after he visited Randall in his home in Detroit in 1966. He said with $400 dollars, he established Third World Press in his basement in Chicago.
With his typewriter and mimeograph, Dr. Madhubuti started his 55-year-old journey as a publisher. In acknowledging his contributions to black empowerment, the Institute of Black World said Dr. Madhubuti fought off misconceptions created around African Americans and their role in building American society.
The Institute said he had carried his readers along a variety of black experiences and achievements in America. He has done this by allowing readers to share the Black experience in America from the perspective of Black writers.
The renowned poet has published the works of hundreds of authors including Derrick Bell, Gil Scott-Herson and Mari Evans among others. The Third World Press may not be as huge in influence as other publishers in America, but Dr. Mahabuti commands a following both nationally and internationally.
He said his commitment is to publish books that shape the political consciousness of his readers as well as fiction and non-fiction books for children. He indicated that his mission for setting up the foundation has not changed; he remains committed to pushing the message of black empowerment.