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 Barbara Neely

Photographer: Teresa Salgado
Barbara Neely, as an activist and writer of the Blanche White mystery novels, notes, "...I realized the mystery genre was perfect to talk about serious subjects, and it could carry the political fiction I wanted to write." With her debut novel in 1992, Barbara Neely joined a growing number of female African American mystery writers who are gaining a wide audience with their compelling whodunits set in black America. Blanche has been compared to Langston Hughes's classic character, Jesse B. Semple. Writer, Ntzoke Shange has been quoted as saying, "[Blanche] rivals Simple in her insight, political savvy, and humor on the ways of white folk." Books in the Blanche White series have been taught in courses at universities as varied as Howard University, Northeastern Illinois, Northwestern, Bryn Mawr, Old Dominion, Boston College, Appalachian State University, Washington State University, and Guttenberg University in Mainz,
Germany, and have been translated into French, German and Japanese. Ms. Neely's short stories have appeared in anthologies, magazines, university texts, and journals including: Things that divide us, Speaking for Ourselves, Constellations, Literature: Reading and Writing the Human Experience, Breaking Ice, Essence, and Obsidian II.

In addition to writing, Ms. Neely has also had an extensive public sector career. She directed a branch of the YWCA, was Family Services Coordinator for ABCD Head Start, and headed a consultant firm for non-profits. Ms. Neely was also part of an evaluative research team at the Institute for Social Research, the past Executive Director and current Co-Chair the Board of Directors of Women for Economic Justice, and a founding member of Women of Color for Reproductive Freedom. For her activism Neely has received the Community Works Social Action Award for Leadership and Activism for Women's Rights and Economic Justice, the Fighting for Women's Voices Award from the Coalition for Basic Human Needs, and the Woman of Courage and Conviction Award for the Literature.

Barbara Neely has worked in media as a radio producer for African News Service and as a staff member of Southern Exposure Magazine. She is also host of Commonwealth Journal, a radio interview program in Massachusetts. Commonwealth Journal airs at 7:00 PM on Sundays, and can be heard online at http://www.wumb.org/commonwealthjournal/. Ms. Neely brings to her interviews her interest in the historical, cultural, and sociopolitical affairs of the Commonwealth and the world.

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