Cultural critic and playwright Larry Neal was a leading member of the Black Arts Movement in the 1960s. He was born in Atlanta in 1937 and grew up in Philadelphia, earning a BA in English and history from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. He also studied folklore as a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania. His collections of poetry, Black Boogaloo: Notes on a Black Literature (1969) and Hoodoo Hollerin Bebop Ghosts (1971), show the influence of vernacular speech and folklore.
Politically active and involved in the arts, Neal wrote essays about the Black Arts Movement and served as arts editor for the journal Liberator. With Amiri Baraka, he edited the anthology Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro-American Writing (1968). Neal was education director of the Black Panther Party, was a member of the Revolutionary Action Movement, and belonged to the Black Arts Theatre. In 1970, he was honored with a Guggenheim Fellowship for African American critical studies.
Neal held teaching positions at the City College of New York, Yale University, and Wesleyan University. In the 1970s, he was executive director of the Commission on the Arts and Humanities in Washington, DC. Neal’s work is available in Vision of a Liberated Future: Black Arts Movement Writings (1989), a compilation of his essays, poetry, and drama. He died in 1981.