A Raisin in the Sun: Biography: Lorraine Hansberry

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Lorraine Hansberry, African-American playwright, was born into a relatively wealthy-middle class family in Chicago in 1930 and was raised with the belief in fighting for injustice. She studied at the University of Wisconsin for two years and moved to New York in 1950 to study and then write. She married in 1953 and separated in 1957 after privately coming out as a lesbian. Her short life is marked by the impact her writing had in the world of drama and also for the commitment she had in the fight for equality. This entailed challenging racism, sexism and homophobia.

In 1959, she became the first African-American woman to have a play shown on Broadway. This was the seminal A Raisin in the Sun (1959), which was also awarded the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play of the Year (and she is the first African American to receive this). Her other dramatic works include The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window (1964), To Be Young, Gifted and Black (1969) and Les Blancs (1970).

Her ex-husband, Robert Nemiroff, completed Les Blancs after her death. She died of cancer in 1965 and, consequently, her full potential as a dramatist has not been realized.

 

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