August 26, 2018

Chicago History: Haki Madhubuti, the most influential African-American leader you’ve probably never heard of

This is an expanded version of an article that appeared 8.29.18 in the Chicago Reader.   Don L. Lee was ten years old when his mother Maxine took him and his younger sister to visit the minister of one of the largest black churches in Detroit. It was mid-20th century America, and, abandoned years before by her husband, Maxine, a beautiful, vivacious woman, had been trying to keep the family afloat with the odds stacked against her. Suddenly, with the minister, she was in luck.  A man in his fifties, with a kindly demeanor, he offered her a job as a janitor at the four-story, twelve-unit building he owned next to his church — and free housing in a basement apartment.  During the week, she’d be responsible for cleaning and dusting the public areas and hauling the garbage cans down the backstairs. Oh, and one other thing — as the interview came to an end, the minister leaned over and whispered something to Maxine.  “I knew what was going on,” her son tells me. Thereafter, come Monday and Thursday afternoons, the minister would visit the family’s apartment “and she would service him.”  She was what was known at the time […]