Black Arts for a Black Audience
Haki R. Madhubuti (who changed his name from Don L. Lee in 1973) is a militant African American poet, critic, publisher, editor, and spokesperson—the most vocal and best known of the Chicago school of Black Arts writers who emerged in the late 1960’s, and the one of them who has managed to remain in the spotlight as a literary figure.
The focus of Madhubuti’s literary career shifted in the mid-1970’s from writing small books of poetry to lecturing, literary criticism, editing, and publishing, but his advocacy of a separatist, didactic literature—by African Americans, for African Americans, and about the African American experience—has been consistent. Strong denunciation of “whi-te” values and living patterns—and of “Negroes” who choose to adopt them—is axiomatic, especially in Madhubuti’s earlier poems.
Madhubuti’s work as editor and publisher began early, in 1967; from the first, it complemented his work as poet, giving him a platform from which to promote his own works and those of others who share his vision.
Madhubuti was born Don L. Lee on February 23, 1942, in Little Rock, Arkansas, to Jimmy L. Lee and Maxine Graves Lee. He attended Dunbar Vocational High School in Chicago. After service in the U.S. Army from 1960 to 1963, he returned to Chicago to attend City College, Roosevelt University, and the University of Illinois, Chicago Circle. While in college, Lee worked as an apprentice curator at a museum of African American history while holding jobs as a clerk and as a junior executive for a Chicago corporation.