HAKI R. MADHUBUTI was born Don L. Lee on February 23, 1942, in Little Rock, Arkansas, the son of Jimmy L. and Maxine (Graves) Lee.Lee's early life was troubled: his father left the family when he was a baby and his mother died when he was sixteen. Forced to work at several jobs (including cleaning a bar) while attending Dunbar Vocational High School in Chicago, Lee served a three-year stint in the U.S. Army ( 1960-63) before going on to secure an associate's degree at Chicago City College in 1966; he then briefly attended Roosevelt University in Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle before dropping out. Since 1963 he had been supporting himself by working as an apprentice curator at the DuSable Museum of African History in Chicago, a job he retained until 1967; he also held positions at Montgomery Ward, the post office, and Spiegel's.
By 1967 Lee was ready to leave business and enter the realms of writing and publishing. In that year he published his first collection of poems, Think Black, and several other poetry volumes followed: Black Pride ( 1968), For Black People (and Negroes Too) ( 1968), Don't Cry, Scream ( 1969), and We Walk the Way of the New World ( 1970). These volumes achieved a wide audience because of their accessibility (many of his poems utilize the language of the streets) and their confrontational tone, which harmonized with the Black Pride and Black Power movements of the time. In 1967 Lee also founded the Third World Press and the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC) Writers Workshop, both of which nurtured and promoted the work of black American writers.
In 1971 Lee published a selection of his best poems, Directionscore, as well as a critical study, Dynamite Voices I: Black Poets of the 1960's. In 1973 he adopted the Swahili name Haki R. Madhubuti and issued Book of Life, the last volume of poetry he would publish for more than a decade. During this period Madhubuti turned his attention to lecturing, essay writing (including such volumes as From Plan to Planet, 1973; The Socio-Politics of Black Exile, 1976; and Enemies: The Clash of Races, 1978), and political