These are the words and philosophy of playwright and social activist, John M. O’Neal, Jr., one of the leading figures of Black theater in the South and co-founder of the Free Southern Theater (FST). The Amistad Research Center is proud to announce the opening of the John O’Neal papers and the inclusion of the collection finding aid in the Center’s online database.
|SNCC flyer likely produced|
in support of the Freedom
Summer project of 1964.
From the papers of John
FST began as the Tougaloo Drama Workshop, co-founded by O’Neal, Doris Derby, and Gilbert Moses at Tougaloo College in Mississippi in October of 1963. For a number of practical reasons, the theater relocated from Mississippi and established its headquarters in New Orleans in 1965. FST played a pivotal role for African Americans and oppressed people in the South by using theater as a tool of social justice. The touring repertory company inspired its cast members to become activists, as well as artists. FST eventually produced its last play in 1980. That same year marked the creation of FST's successor, Junebug Productions, which was led by O'Neal for many years.
|John O'Neal as Junebug|
Jabbo Jones, 1985.
O’Neal’s papers provide insight into the personal and professional life of John M. O’Neal, Jr. and document O'Neal's artistic style and vision as an African American actor, director, playwright, and community and civil rights activist. The papers are of interest for studying the southern Black Arts Movement and more specifically the Black Theater Movement; the Free Southern Theater; the Civil Rights Movement, particularly in the southern states and New Orleans; voter rights registration; race relations; literature; and community organizing.
For a new archivist, it is a wonderful feeling to complete the processing of the John O’Neal papers and to provide access to the many historical treasures found within his papers, both through the online finding aid and the sampling of digitized materials that are currently being added to Amistad's online database.
Posted by Felicia Render
(Images from the John O'Neal Papers. Not to be used without permission.)