Larry Neal or Lawrence Neal (September 5, 1937 – January 6, 1981) was a scholar of African-American theatre. He is well known for his contributions to the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. He pushed the shift from forcing black culture in with white American culture, to that of celebrating their differences within an equally important and meaningful artistic and political field, thus celebrating Black Heritage.
Lawrence Paul Neal
September 5, 1937
|Died||January 6, 1981(aged 43)|
|Alma mater||Lincoln University (Pennsylvania),|
University of Pennsylvania
|Institutions||City College of New York.|
Neal was born in Atlanta, Georgia, to a Woodie and Maggie Neal, who had five sons. He graduated from Lincoln University (Pennsylvania) in 1961 with a degree in history and English, and then received a master's degree in 1963 from the University of Pennsylvania in Folklore. In 1963, Neal was a professor for Drexel Institute of Technology in Philadelphia for a brief period before landing a job in New York as a copywriter in 1964 for Wiley and Sons. From 1968 to 1969, Neal taught at the City College of New York. The following year he taught at Wesleyan University, and then at Yale University from 1970 to 1975.It was during his time at Yale where he won a Guggenheim Fellowship for African-American critical studies.
Neal is known for working with Amiri Baraka to open the Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School. His early writings—including "The Negro in the Theatre" (1964), "Cultural Front" (1965), and "The Black Arts Movement" (1968)—were influential in defining and describing the role of the arts in the Black Power era. Additionally, he became the arts editor of the Liberator magazine (1964–69), educational director of the Black Panther Party, and was a member of the Revolutionary Action Movement. His time as an arts editor allowed him to interview some of the most influential black artists, musicians, and writers, which only increased his involved and influence in the Black Arts Movement.
His essays and poems appeared in publications such as Liberator, Drama Critque, Black Theatre, Negro Digest, Performance, and Black World. His essays dealt with social issues, aesthetic theory, literary topics, while his poetry focused more on African-American mythology, history, and language. He also uncovered Ed Bullins's plagiarism of Albert Camus's 1949 play The Just Assassins.
At Howard University in Washington D.C., Neal held a chair in humanities. During 1976–79, he was the Executive Director for the District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities. This organization helped with grants to further the arts in black communities.
In 1965, he married Evelyn Rodgers; they had one adopted son, Avatar.
Neal died from a heart attack on January 6, 1981, at a theater workshop in Hamilton, New York. Information on his life and career can be found at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, which is a section of the New York Public Library.
- Black Boogaloo: Notes on Black Liberation (poetry) (1969)
- Introductions to Zora Neale Hurston’s autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road, and her novel, Jonah’s Gourd Vine. (1971).
- Moving On Up (screenplay) (1973)
- Hoodoo Hollerin' Bebop Ghosts (poetry) (1974)
- The Glorious Monster in the Bell of the Horn (play) (1979)
- In an Upstate Motel: A Morality Play (play) (1980)
- Visions of a Liberated Future: Black Arts Movement Writings Edited by Michael Schwartz; with commentary by Amiri Baraka, Stanley Crouch, Charles Fuller, and Jayne Cortez. (essays) (1989)
As editor or contributorEdit
- Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro-American Writing (Co-editor, with Amiri Baraka) (1968)
- Trippin': A Need for Change (co-author, with Amiri Baraka and A. B. Spellman) (1969)