Madhubuti and TWP Archives Acquired

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The Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Illinois has acquired the papers of Dr. Haki R. Madhubuti , one of the most provocative poets of his generation, and the Third World Press (TWP)/Third World Press Foundation , the oldest independent Black-owned publisher in the United States. The archive includes important documentation of Madhubuti’s original work as a writer, educator, and intellectual leader, and it provides an essential and unique record of the inner workings of TWP.

Manuscripts preserved in the archive, which spans approximately 500 linear feet of library shelving or 300 boxes, include Madhubuti’s own work, and that of other leading TWP poets and writers, such as Amiri Baraka, Ossie Davis & Ruby Dee, Sonia Sanchez, Derrick Bell, and Illinois Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Brooks. The extensive literary manuscripts and archives of Brooks, the first African American writer to win the Pulitzer Prize, became part of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Illinois in 2013.

“Dr. Madhubuti was an early protégé of Gwendolyn Brooks and played a key role in establishing TWP in Chicago during the height of the 1960s Black Arts Movement,” said Tom Teper, associate dean for collections and technical services at Illinois. “We are ecstatic that we could add this important archive to our collections and that it will reside alongside the Brooks papers.”

The archive is a rich primary resource for studying the direct impact of TWP and one of the most important times in African-American literature, the growth of a singular Black enterprise, and its broad networks and communities of readers, writers, thinkers, and educators.

TWP, which was founded by Madhubuti with a $400 honorarium and a used mimeograph machine in the basement of his apartment, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. In addition to publishing, other initiatives of the press have included projects aimed at developing literacy, encouraging writers and poets, and programs and events promoting understanding and education about African American culture and history.

“We are so pleased to have been selected as a home for these materials that document the growth of the Black Arts Movement and Dr. Madhubuti’s work,” said Lynne M. Thomas, head of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. “This collection not only provides important additional context for Brooks’s later career, it documents the numerous Black artists, writers, and creators that came after her through the work of the oldest Black-owned publishing company in the United States.”

The acquisition of the archives was made possible with the financial support of Library Friends through various gift and endowment funds.

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