He gravitated to the East Village and hung out with members of a group of black writers and artists based there called Umbra, among them Mr. Henderson, Mr. Reed, Thomas Dent and Lenox Raphael. He also joined a fledgling political group formed by LeRoi Jones (who later took the name Amiri Baraka), the Organization of Young Men.
Mr. Cannon attended the group’s meetings but drew the line at taking part in a demonstration they planned in upstate Orange County, N.Y., after hearing that officials there had thrown people off welfare.
“I hadn’t come to New York City to join a protest; I had come to become a writer,” he wrote.
Mr. Cannon recalled making a $100 donation in the mid-1960s to help launch The East Village Other, which was once described as “a newspaper so countercultural that it made The Village Voice look like a church circular.”
His novel, “Groove, Bang and Jive Around,” a coming-of-age story set in New Orleans, was published in 1969. He bought the Third Street building the next year for $35,000, by his account. In 1971 he began teaching in the City University of New York system, continuing with some gaps until 2008.
It came as a blow to him when he was forced to leave the Third Street building in 2014. He absorbed it with his usual grin, but the accompanying cackle was tinged with sadness. Friends showed up to help pack his belongings.
There was one part of the building that Mr. Cannon was unwilling to part with, however: the section of drywall that Mr. Hammons had painted red with gold ornamentation in 1995 as part of a chance installation.
The wall, Mr. Cannon said, was too much of a treasure to leave behind. A lawyer for the building’s owner said that it was part of the structure and that it could not be taken away, but Mr. Cannon directed his friends, equipped with saws, to do just that.
“This piece of art captures the spontaneity of what we do here,” he said at the time; its removal, he added, would be as unexpected and as fitting as its creation.