Rare Book and Manuscript Library acquires works by Haki Madhubuti


Daily Illini File Photo

The front entrance of the Main Library located on Gregory Drive.

By kevin Delgado, News Reporter

The Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University has added a collection of papers from Haki Madhubuti, the Third World Press and the Third World Press Foundation in Chicago.

Madhubuti, a poet, founded the Third World Press foundation in 1967 and is the oldest black-owned publisher in the country. The publisher has included the works of many well-known African-American writers, including Gwendolyn Brooks.

“Dr. Madhubuti’s work as a poet who was directly mentored by Gwendolyn Brooks, and his work as a publisher, publishing Gwendolyn Brooks’s later work among many other black writers, made the Madhubuti Collection and the Third World Press archives a natural acquisition that complements the Gwendolyn Brooks papers held here in RBML,” Lynne Thomas said, associate professor of the University Library, in an email.

As of 2013, the literary archives belonging to Brooks, the first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize and Illinois poet laureate for 32 years, can also be found in the The Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

When Third World Press production first began, Madhubuti used a mimeograph machine and operated out of the basement of his apartment. During the time of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, the press printed the works of black writers and scholars that would likely not be accepted by common publishers.

“The Third World Press collection documents the Black Arts Movement and one of the oldest black-owned publishing companies in the country, and Dr. Madhubuti’s papers contribute to further documenting the history of modern poetry,” Thomas said. “ I would not be surprised if we continued to build upon these collections with other acquisitions as is appropriate.”

The press published fiction, poetry, history, memoir, social science, cultural criticism and children’s books. In addition, Madhubuti also included personal works, such as books of poetry and essays.

The addition to the library is contained in about 300 boxes or span about 500 feet of library shelving. The addition includes the editorial processes, business records, marketing, distribution, fundraising records and letters that reveal literary and professional relationships.

Madhubuti also wanted the papers at the same institution as those of Brooks, who mentored him as a young writer, as well as a close friend.

To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the press will host a weeklong event that includes speakers, workshops, movie screenings and performances from Sept. 30 to Oct. 7 in Chicago.

On Sept. 20, Madhubuti spoke at the opening of an exhibit of materials from the Brooks archive, hosted at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The exhibit, “Matter in the Margins, Gwendolyn Brooks at 100,”  will run through Dec. 20 and includes Brook’s comments on her own work and letters to her editor.

“Our commitment to modern poetry includes several of our most well-known manuscript collections, including the Carl Sandburg papers, the W.S. Merwin papers, and the Gwendolyn Brooks papers. We also have strong holdings in published poetry in several areas. I expect that as we go forward, we will continue to build the poetry collections here at RBML in ways that will enhance this area of research and artistry,” Thomas said. 

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