CHICAGO—Since 1967, the oldest independent publisher of Black literature in the country has remained true to its original mission of publishing “culturally progressive and politically insightful works of fiction, poetry, nonfiction and children’s books.”
For 55 years, Third World Press (TWP) has provided books that encourage creativity, inspire intellect, engender pride and spur engaged and informed critical debate over issues of race, culture, politics, and social health, supporters explain. TWP, hosted by its founder, Dr. Haki Madhubuti, celebrated recently with an open house on their campus on Chicago’s South Side in the Greater Grand Crossing-Avalon neighborhood to mark the momentous anniversary.
Several notable Chicagoans attended the October 8 event to share the day and express their support, admiration and appreciation for Dr. Madhubuti.
Dr. Haki Madhubuti, known decades ago as Don L. Lee, a leading poet and one of the architects of the Black Arts Movement, with support from Johari Amini and Carolyn Rodgers, launched Third World Press Foundation from his basement apartment in Englewood in 1967.
With a $400 poetry reading honorarium Dr. Madhubuti received, he bought a used mimeograph machine, and individuals committed to the local and national Black Arts and empowerment movements, the Press produced its first publications.
Then, not long after establishing TWP, Madhubuti, his wife Safisha Madhubuti and others founded the Institute of Positive Education (IPE) and the New Concept Development Center, which later led to the opening of three schools in the Chicago South Side neighborhood.
“As an independent publisher, it’s important that we let the community know we are still here on the city’s South Side publishing the works of writers who have reached national and international acclaim,” said Dr. Madhubuti.
Today, TWP and the Institute of Positive Education boast a beautiful campus that includes two buildings that face back-to-back on 78th Street between Ellis and Dobson Avenues.
“He is a father of Black literary arts. He has built institutions, he has built the schools that have educated children and has really in ways of commitment, we don’t think of artists doing tangible things, but he has given his life and he is worthy of all of the honor and respect we can give him,” said Rev. Marshall Hatch Sr., pastor of the New Mount Pilgrim Missionary on Chicago’s West Side.
“Thank you for creating Third World Press to be a platform for so many others to speak their truth and to tell their story; to allow their voices to be heard when mainstream press not only ignored them but tried to shut them up,” Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Catholic Church during the celebration said. “You’ve been consistent. You’ve never given up and you never sold out. When you can survive for 55 years in the climate of this country and still be a Black-owned business and be consistent … you are a miracle.”
Another illustration of Dr. Madhubuti’s impact is his efforts in the early rebuilding stages of the Nation of Islam under the leadership of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. He mentioned that during the celebration.
“A lot of people don’t realize that me and Minister Farrakhan go back a long ways. The Nation of Islam, under Min. Farrakhan, actually started in my home. We were living in South Shore. We’ve been friends a long time. And we helped a great deal with the Million Man March,” said Dr. Madhubuti.
During the formative years of the Press, Madhubuti was mentored and supported by many luminaries including Margaret Burroughs and Gwendolyn Brooks.
Along with 36 books Dr. Madhubuti has published, TWP has published amazing and influential Black authors such as poet and publisher, Dudley Randall; Illinois Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner, Gwendolyn Brooks; poets Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Mari Evans, Margaret Walker, Sterling Plumpp and Haki R. Madhubuti; world-renown psychiatrists Frances Cress Welsing and Carl C. Bell; editor Hoyt W. Fuller; historians John Henrik Clarke, Jacob Carruthers and Chancellor Williams; playwright and producer Woody King,
Jr.; writers Useni Eugene Perkins, Ayi Kwei Armah, Kalamu ya Salaam, Pearl Cleage, and Keorapetse Kgositsile; actors, producers and playwrights Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee; artists Murry DePillars, Calvin Jones, and Jon Lockard; authors Nathan Hare, Asa G. Hilliard III, Derrick Bell, Barbara A. Sizemore, Marcia Sutherland, Clifford Watson, Geneva Smitherman, Herb Boyd, Michael Simanga, Lita Hooper, Diane Turner, Fred Hord, Ruth Garnett, Julianne Malveaux, Bakari Kitwana, Marc Lamont Hill, Thabiti Lewis, Mumia Abu Jamal, Quraysh Ali Lansana, Kelly Norman Ellis, Tony Medina and others.
Long-time TWP authors Illinois Poet Laureate Angela Jackson and poet Useni Eugene Perkins were honored for their contributions over the years. The first books by Jackson and Perkins were published by TWP in the early 1970s.
Illinois State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins provided proclamations for Dr. Madhubuti as well as Ms. Jackson and Mr. Perkins during the anniversary celebration.