A playwright, an author, an activists, and the granddaughter of a freed slave, Lorraine Hansberry is one of the most recognized black figures within the theater and the literary arts. Being the first black playwright and the youngest American to win a New York Critics’ Circle award, her works and her success speak for themselves.
The youngest of four, Hansberry was born on May 1930, in Chicago, Illinois. Her mother was a schoolteacher, while her father was a successful real state broker, and a major contributor to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Urban League. At the age of eight, her family moved to a primarily white neighborhood, where she and her family where received with hostility and hatred.
It was this hostility and hatred what inspired her first and most successful play: “A Raisin in the Sun.” Originally titled “The Crystal Stair,” this play depicts “a penetrating psychological study of the personalities and emotional conflicts within a working-class black family in Chicago,” as the Encyclopaedia Britannica writes. The play was directed by Lloyd Richards, the first African American to direct a play in Broadway since 1907.
The play has also been adapted into movies, gaining similar recognition. The script for the film adaptation was also written by Hansberry, earning her a Cannes Film Festival Award and a nomination for a Screen Writers Guild Award.
In addition to “A Raisin in the Sun,” she wrote “The Sign in Sydney Brunstein’s Window,” a drama depicting political questioning and affirmation. She also wrote for “Freedom,” a progressive black newspapers, and “The Ladder,” the Daughters of Bilitis’ magazine, where she wrote within the themes of feminism and homosexuality.