After nearly dying from a stab wound, Bullins left high school in 1952 to join the navy. In 1964 he moved to San Francisco and began writing. He became a pioneer of the Black Arts Movement. In the mid-1960s, he served as minister of culture for the Black Panther Party and was cultural director of Black House, an African American theater group in Oakland, Calif. Maintaining that theater was an art form and not simply a means of political propaganda, Bullins left the group and moved to New York. He won a 1971 Obie Award for The Fabulous Miss Marie and In New England Winter, and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for The Taking of Miss Janie in 1975. Bullins received a BA from Antioch University/San Francisco in 1989 and an MFA in playwriting from San Francisco State University in 1994.