Writer of the Week: Lorraine Hansberry

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.

To read more about Hansberry’s life and legacy, you can visit her Black History Now page, as well as her biography in Biography.com.