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BlackFacts Details

Lorraine Hansberry - African-American Playwright

Lorraine Hansberry is best known for writing A Raisin in the Sun, the first play by an African American woman produced on Broadway. 

Lorraine Hansberry"s parents were both active in the black community in Chicago, including in social change work. Her uncle, William Leo Hansberry, studied African history. Visitors to the home included Duke Ellington, Paul Robeson, and Jesse Owens.

Her family moved, desegregating a white neighborhood with a restrictive covenant, in 1938, and though there were violent protests, they did not move until a court ordered them to do so.

The case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court as Hansberry vs. Lee, when restrictive covenants were ruled illegal (which did not stop enforcement of them in Chicago and other cities).

One of Lorraine Hanberry"s brothers served in a segregated unit in World War II; another refused his draft call, objecting to segregation and discrimination in the military.

Dates: May 19, 1930 - January 12, 1965

Lorraine Hansberry attended the University of Wisconsin for two years, then left to work for Paul Robeson"s newspaper, Freedom, first as a writer and then associate editor. She attended the Intercontinental Peace Congress in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1952, when Paul Robeson was denied a passport to attend.

She met Robert Nemiroff on a picket line, and they were married in 1953, spending the night before their wedding protesting the execution of the Rosenbergs. Lorraine Hansberry left her position at Freedom, focusing mostly on her writing and taking a few temporary jobs.

Lorraine Hansberry completed her first play in 1957, taking her title from Langston Hughes" poem, "Harlem."

She began to circulate the play, Raisin in the Sun, trying to interest producers, investors, and actors.

Sidney Poitier expressed interest in taking the part of the son, and soon a director and other actors (including Louis Gossett, Ruby Dee, and Ossie Davis) were committed to the performance. Raisin in the Sun opened on Broadway at the Barrymore Theatre on March 11, 1959.

The play, with themes

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