Since 1963, John O’Neal was a leading advocate of the view that politics and art are complementary not opposing terms. His work as a writer, performer and director has been acclaimed by audiences in the US and worldwide. He was founder and former artistic director (1980-2011) of Junebug Productions, the organizational successor to the Free Southern Theater, of which O’Neal was also a co-founder and director. He was a field secretary of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and worked as National Field Program Director with the Committee for Racial Justice.
O’Neal wrote eighteen plays, a musical comedy, and a substantial body of poetry and essays. He had numerous credits as an actor and toured widely in the character of Junebug Jabbo Jones, a mythic figure who symbolizes the wisdom of common people, which was created by people involved in SNCC. O’Neal was a leader in the field of artists working in community and for social justice. His ColorLine Project, a multi-year story collecting and performance event about the Civil Rights Movement, received the prestigious Ford Foundation’s Leadership for a Changing World Award.
Throughout his career, O’Neal published essays and plays in numerous books, magazines, and journals. His works were published in Southern Exposure, The Black Scholar, Tulane Drama Review, Black World, Plays from the Southern Theater, Yale Theatre, and The Black Aesthetic. His poetry has been published in New Black Poetry.