Etheridge Knight was born in Corinth, Mississippi. He dropped out of school in the eighth grade and joined the Army in 1947. He was trained as a medical technician before being discharged in 1957 after receiving a serious shrapnel wound in Korea. Thereafter he had problems with drug and alcohol addiction, finally being arrested for robbery in 1960. In prison, he began to write, encouraged by poets Gwendolyn Brooks, Dudley Randall, and Sonia Sanchez. He published his first book in 1968, the year of his release from Indiana State Prison, and it made a general thematics out of contrasts between freedom and imprisonment. His poetry regularly combines traditional metrics with elements from African American culture. Knight continued to write and teach until his death from lung cancer.