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Mon, 05.19.1930

Lorraine Hansberry, Playwright, and Activist born

Lorraine Hansberry

Lorraine Hansberry was born on this date in 1930. She was a Black lesbian and bisexual woman, writer, and activist for equal rights for Blacks.

Lorraine Vivian Hansberry was born in Chicago, the daughter of Nannie Perry Hansberry and Carl A. Hansberry, both active proponents of civil rights.  Her uncle was scholar William Hansberry. Hansberry's father worked with the NAACP and the Urban League to challenge segregation. and he ran for Congress through his attempt to break down the barriers of racism continued in the political arena when he ran for Congress.

She graduated from high school and then attended the University of Wisconsin, but left after two years, in 1950, to move to New York City. She became an associate editor in the New York City-based newspaper Freedom, a radical Black paper founded by Paul Robeson.  In 1953, she married Jewish writer Robert Nemiroff, a songwriter and music publisher, and resigned from her position at the newspaper.

Hansberry wrote many articles and essays on racism, homophobia, world peace, and other social issues, but she was a playwright and best known for her play, "A Raisin in the Sun," which was made into a motion picture in 1961. It is the story of a Black Chicago family's attempt to find sense in their constrained existence. The play was the first drama by a Black woman to be produced on Broadway, and it won the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award in 1959.  Hansberry's second play, "The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window," about Jews after World War II, was produced in 1963, the same year she was diagnosed with cancer. Hansberry’s marriage ended in divorce, and for the next two years, the playwright battled cancer with chemotherapy and radiation while continuing to write. On January 12, 1965, Hansberry died.

After Hansberry's death, her former husband adapted her letters, plays, and papers into the production "To Be Young, Gifted, and Black." This compilation was published in book form in 1970.

To be a Writer



Lawrence Jean-Louis,

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ISBN 1-58062-928-8

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