Lorraine Hansberry was a black playwright that was born in Chicago on May 19th, 1930. She had a big role in the civil rights movement and wrote plays about it. Her most famous play, A Raisin in the Sun, was about a black family in Chicago. Her plays made it to Broadway and were played many times throughout their lifespan. She won many awards for her plays and was the youngest writer ever to win many of those awards.
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Lorraine Hansberry grew up in southern Chicago in the 1930s-1940s and lived there until she went to the University of Wisconsin. She is the fourth of seven children born to Carl Hansberry and Nannie Perry. She grew up in a middle-class family in which her father worked as a successful banker in Chicago. He established the Lake Street Bank, which was one of the first banks that allowed black people. Her uncle, also a very successful person, was a scholar at Howard University in Washington D.C. Her family once tried to move to a strictly white community and they were threatened by a mob. The mob threw a brick through the window as a form of intimidation; which barely missed Lorraine.
The family was forced to leave because of a restrictive covenant. After filing suit, the ruling was eventually overturned in the U.S. Supreme Court. This court ruling opened a lot of areas that blacks could now move into, which they previously weren’t allowed to. After graduating from Englewood High School, she enrolled in the University of Wisconsin but dropped out after two years to study art in Chicago and Mexico. She eventually changed her degree from art to writing and shortly afterward moved to New York in 1950, when she was only 20 years old.
After moving to New York, she wrote for a newspaper called Freedom about racial and economic equality. She also wrote for a newspaper called The Ladder in 1957. She wrote many essays and articles about racism and feminism. She was a racial activist and wrote plays that supported her arguments. She was the first black playwright to make it to Broadway, where her most famous play, A Raisin in the Sun. It was about a black family in Chicago during segregation. It talked about how the family struggles with trying to move into a nicer house with the life insurance money they just received, but the neighborhood was a strictly white neighborhood. The play made it to Broadway, making her the first black woman to have a play on Broadway. It is also the longest-running play by a black playwright on Broadway.
The play showed a realistic inside view of a black family living in southern Chicago, and the struggles they faced. She won the New York Critics’ Circle award, which made her the youngest person to win that specific award. A Raisin in the Sun was shown over 530 times throughout its run and was shown thousands of times internationally throughout the world. The play was also named the Best Play of the Year Award by the New York Drama Critics, was made into a television production which won an award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1961, and won Tony Awards in 2004 and 2014. In 1989 and 2008 the television productions were Emmy nominated. Best Revival of a Play was also another one of her awards.
In 1953, She married a theatre producer she had been working with named Robert B. Nemiroff. They were married for nine years before they divorced in 1962. They still had a good relationship and got along. They continued to work together and made a few plays. He continued to work on her plays even after she passed away. He even finished and published a few of her plays that she was working on when she died.
After being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the age of 34, she died less than a year later on January 12, 1965. Her ex-husband, Robert Nemiroff, made the book, To Be Young, Gifted, and Blackout of some of her writings and interviews, in 1970. It went on to be a semi-successful book. He also took three of her unfinished plays and finished writing and editing her plays, then published them. Her plays continued to be shown after she died and continued to win awards as well. Many of the awards she won, she actually won after she died.
She was an overall big contributor in the fight for equality and she had an influence on a great many people. Her plays helped show people the struggles of black families in Chicago, but also throughout the country. It helped provoke some leaders to take more action in the civil rights movement and helped show that race doesn’t matter. Her play is considered, by some, to have changed “American theatre forever” as it states in the “about the author” section in her script/book A Raisin in the Sun. She had a greater role in the civil rights movement than most people ever realize.
Play by Lorraine Hansberry Raisins in the Sun. (2021, Nov 26).
Retrieved January 31, 2023 , from
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