An African-American author and poet, he is best known for his 1990 work, Black Men: Obsolete, Single, Dangerous?: The African American Family in Transition. His other works include Claiming Earth: Race, Rage, Rape, Redemption (1994) and GroundWork: New and Selected Poems (1996).
He served in the U.S. Army in the early 1960s and subsequently received an MFA degree from the Iowa Writers' Workshop.
His birth name was Don Luther Lee. In 1974, he changed his name to the Swahili words for just (Haki) and precise (Madhubuti).
His slightly fictionalized autobiography, Yellow Black, tells the story of his life from birth until age twenty-one.
He was a co-founder of Third World Press, which later published the works of Gwendolyn Brooks and other prominent African-American authors.