Lorraine Hansberry


Lorraine Hansberry rejected the limitations of her race and gender and through her written works, became a social activist and expanded the role of a black woman in America. Lorraine Hansberry wrote many works that allowed her to explain her views. She also explored these ideas through playwrights. Lorraine Hansberry was said to be a spearhead of the future. She was a woman who refused to be confined by the categories of race and gender (Tripp 3). Lorraine Hansberry was born in 1930. Both of her parents? were activists challenging discrimination laws. Many famous black people frequently visited her home because of her parent's authority (Tripp 2). Two of these famous black Americans that often visited Lorraine?s home were Paul Robeson and Langston Hughes. They were her "shining light" so to speak. Especially when it came time for her to find her own place in the New York literary world (Cheney 36). Paul Robeson provided great inspiration for Lorraine?s writings. On the other hand, Langston Hughes gave her a social consciousness of her poetic possibilities of her own race. He also gave her an appreciation of the black American culture. She had also learned from Hughes that in spite of obstacles, black people remained a powerful force in America (Cheney 46-53). Although the Hansberry family was comfortably settled as middle-class economic status, they were still subject to the racial segregation and discrimination characteristic of the period, and they were most active in opposing it (Smith 147). Lorraine?s writing career was started in the area of magazines. She was writing for Paul Robeson?s Freedom magazine. At this time, Lorraine would always say, "I was born black and female," these were the twin identities that would dominate her life and her work. This was her source of motivation, by retelling this statement to herself and the others around her. Another concern of hers was the human conditions as blacks experienced it. She spent much of her life making an effort to change these conditions (Cheney 140; Tripp 2). Lorraine Hansberry?s first play was named, "The Crystal Stair." It was named after a line in the Langston Hughes poem, "Mother to Son." Lorraine later changed the title of her play to, "A Raisin in the Sun." This was as well taken from one of Langston Hughes? pieces, "A Dream Deferred" (Draper 951). Lorraine?s second play was named "The Sign in Sidney Brustein?s Window." This play never matched the success of her first play "A Raisin in the Sun." This play did use a realistic format that was drawn from her own life (Magill, Great Women?201). Lorraine wrote at least five plays. All of which revealed the depth of her concern for the black race and for all of the downtrodden races in America and abroad (Cheney 52). Lorraine Hansberry used a realistic style and had a stress on the possibilities for heroism. This stress for heroism within each of her characteristics had everything to do with the purpose that she saw in drama (Magill, Great Women?200) The majority of Lorraine?s works were about the black family of her time. She showed many important characteristics in each piece. Some of which were the importance of African roots, the equality of women, and the vulnerability of marriage (Draper 953). The play "The Crystal Stair," later changed to "A Raisin in the Sun", was about a man with a plea for racial tolerance over the incentive society in his time (Draper 950). This was merely based on Lorraine?s childhood experiences of the disintegrating of white neighborhoods. It also portrayed slavery as uncontrollable and completely the work victimizing institutions designed to exploit cheaper labor. This play also focuses on the problem of what a family should do with $10,000 that a mother receives as an insurance payment after the death of her husband. Lorraine got the idea for that part of the play directly out of her own home, in the way that this was the same problem Lorraine?s mother faced at the time of her husband?s death. (Magill, Gre4at Women?200). "Because the play explores a universal theme-the search for the freedom and better life- the majority of its first audience loved the work (Draper 951)." "A Raisin in the Sun" won the award as the Best Play of the Year in the New York Drama Critic?s Circle Award. By winning this award, Lorraine