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On this date in 1937, Larry Neal was born. He was a Black writer and one of the most well-known figures of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
Neal was born in Atlanta, GA. He graduated from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1961, receiving an M.A. in 1963. Soon after, he set the tone for Black writers who emerged during the 1960s American Civil Rights Movement, championing the search and discovery of a distinctive Black aesthetic. His early articles, including "The Negro in the Theater" (1964) and "Cultural Front" (1965), asserted the need for separate cultural forms to develop Black artists in a racist society.
In 1968, Neal’s "Black Fire" and "The Black Arts Movement" further developed this perspective. Neal argued that the purpose of Black arts was to effect a “radical reordering of the Western cultural aesthetic,” in part through a purging of the external European and white American cultural influence from Black artistic expression. Neal was a City College of New York instructor from 1968 to 1969.
He taught at Wesleyan University until 1970 and at Yale University from 1970 to 1975. Near the end of the 1970s, Neal reconsidered his view of black culture. He seemed to give credence to a widening sphere of Black artistic expression, one of more inclusiveness within a white environment in which black art exists. Other late works by Neal include a play, "In an Upstate Motel," which premiered in New York in 1981, the year of his death from a heart attack.
The Encyclopedia of African American Heritage
by Susan Altman
Copyright 1997, Facts on File, Inc. New York