|Born||Lorraine Vivian Hansberry
May 19, 1930
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Died||January 12, 1965
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Occupation||Playwright, writer, stage director, activist|
|Education||University of Wisconsin–Madison
The New School
|Spouse(s)||Robert Nemiroff (m. 1953–62)|
Lorraine Vivian Hansberry (May 19, 1930 – January 12, 1965) was an American playwright and writer. Her best known work, the play A Raisin in the Sun, was inspired by her family's battle against racial segregation in Chicago. The title of the play was taken from the poem "Harlem" by Langston Hughes: "What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?"
Lorraine Hansberry was the youngest of four children of Carl Augustus Hansberry, a successful real-estate broker, and Nannie Louise Perry who was a school teacher. In 1938, her father bought a house in the Washington Park Subdivision of the South Side of Chicago, violating a restrictive covenant and incurring the wrath of their white neighbors. The latter's legal efforts to force the Hansberrys out culminated in the U.S. Supreme Court's 1940 decision in Hansberry v. Lee holding the restrictive covenant in the case contestable, though not inherently invalid.
Hansberry attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison, but found college uninspiring and left in 1950 to pursue her career as a writer in New York City, where she attended The New School. In 1951, she joined the staff of the black newspaper Freedom under the auspices of Paul Robeson, and worked with W. E. B. DuBois, whose office was in the same building. A Raisin in the Sun was written at this time and completed in 1957.
In 1953, she married Robert Nemiroff, a Jewish publisher, songwriter and political activist. She later joined the Daughters of Bilitis and contributed two letters to their magazine, The Ladder, in 1957 under her initials "LHN" that addressed feminism and homophobia. She separated from her husband at this time, but they continued to work together.
In 1959, her play debuted becoming the first play written by an African-American woman to be produced on Broadway. The 29-year-old author became the youngest American playwright and only the fifth woman to receive the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play.
In 1961, Hansberry was set to replace Vinnette Carroll as the director of the musical, Kicks and Co, after its try-out at Chicago's McCormick Place. It was written by Oscar Brown, Jr. and featured an interracial cast including Lonnie Sattin, Nichelle Nichols, Vi Velasco, Al Freeman, Jr., Zabeth Wilde and Burgess Meredith in the title role of Mr. Kicks. A satire involving miscegenation, the $400,000 production was co-produced by her husband Robert Nemiroff; despite a warm reception in Chicago, the show never made it to Broadway.
While many of her other writings were published in her lifetime - essays, articles, and the text for the SNCC book The Movement, the only other play given a contemporary production was The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window. The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window ran for 101 performances on Broadway and closed the night she died.
After a battle with pancreatic cancer she died on January 12, 1965, aged 34. James Baldwin believed "it is not at all farfetched to suspect that what she saw contributed to the strain which killed her, for the effort to which Lorraine was dedicated is more than enough to kill a man." Hansberry's funeral was held in Harlem on January 15, 1965. Paul Robeson gave her eulogy. The presiding minister, Eugene Callender, recited messages from Baldwin and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. which read: "Her creative ability and her profound grasp of the deep social issues confronting the world today will remain an inspiration to generations yet unborn." She is buried at Asbury United Methodist Church Cemetery in Croton-on-Hudson, New York.
Her ex-husband, Robert Nemiroff, became the executor for several unfinished manuscripts. He added minor changes to complete the play Les Blancs, which Julius Lester termed her best work, and he adapted many of her writings into the play To Be Young, Gifted and Black, which was the longest-running Off Broadway play of the 1968-1969 season. It appeared in book form the following year under the title, To Be Young, Gifted and Black: Lorraine Hansberry in Her Own Words. She left behind an unfinished novel and several other plays, including The Drinking Gourd and What Use Are Flowers?, with a range of content, from slavery to a post apocalyptic future.
Raisin, a musical based on A Raisin in the Sun, opened in New York in 1973, winning the Tony Award for Best Musical, with the book by Nemiroff, music by Judd Woldin, and lyrics by Robert Britten. A Raisin in the Sun was revived on Broadway in 2004 and received a Tony Award nomination for Best Revival of a Play. The cast included Sean "P Diddy" Combs as Walter Lee Younger Jr., Phylicia Rashad (Tony Award-winner for Best Actress) and Audra McDonald (Tony Award-winner for Best Featured Actress). It was produced for television in 2008 with the same cast, garnering two NAACP Image Awards.
The Lorraine Hansberry Theatre of San Francisco, which specializes in original stagings and revivals of African-American theatre, is named in her honor. Singer and pianist Nina Simone, who was a close friend of Hansberry, used the title of her unfinished play to write a civil rights-themed song "To Be Young, Gifted and Black" together with Weldon Irvine. The single reached the top 10 of the R&B charts. A studio recording by Simone was released as a single and the first live recording on October 26, 1969, was captured on Black Gold (1970).
Lincoln University's first-year female dormitory is named Lorraine Hansberry Hall. There is a school in the Bronx called Lorraine Hansberry Academy, and an elementary school in St. Albans, Queens, New York named after Hansberry as well.
- A Raisin in the Sun (1959)
- A Raisin in the Sun, screenplay (1961)
- "On Summer" (Essay) (1960)
- The Drinking Gourd (1960)
- What Use Are Flowers? (written approx. 1962)
- The Movement: Documentary of a Struggle for Equality (1964)
- The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window (1965)
- To Be Young, Gifted and Black: Lorraine Hansberry in Her Own Words (1969)
- Les Blancs: The Collected Last Plays / by Lorraine Hansberry. Edited by Robert Nemiroff (1994)
- Toussaint - This fragment from a work in progress, unfinished at the time of Ms. Hansberry's untimely death, deals with a Haitian plantation owner and his wife whose lives are soon to change drastically as a result of the revolution of Toussaint L'Ouverture. (From the Samuel French, Inc. catalogue of plays)
Hansberry was the first cousin of director and playwright Shauneille Perry, whose eldest child is named after her. Her grandniece is actress Taye Hansberry. Her cousin is the flautist, percussionist, and composer Aldridge Hansberry.
- Higashida, Cheryl, “To Be (come) Young, Gay, and Black: Lorraine Hansberry’s Existentialist Routes to Anticolonialism,” American Quarterly, 60 (December 2008), 899–924.
- James, Rosetta. Cliff Notes on Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. Lincoln, Nebraska: Cliff Notes Inc., 1992
- Tripp, Janet (1997). Lorraine Hansberry. Lucent Books. ISBN 9781560060819.
- Blau, Eleanor (July 19, 1991). "Robert Nemiroff, 61, Champion Of Lorraine Hansberry's Works". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 March 2013.
- Carter 1980, p. 40.
- Lipari, Lisbeth. "Queering the borders: Lorraine Hansberry’s 1957 Letters to The Ladder" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Marriott Hotel, San Diego, CA, May 27, 2003. Online <.PDF>. 2008-06-28 <http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p112109_index.html>
- Carter, Stephen R., "Commitment Amid Complexity: Lorraine Hansberry's Life in Action", MELUS (The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States), Vol. 7, Issue 3, at 39, 40-41 (Autumn 1980), available at <http://www.jstor.org/stable/467027> (subscription required)
- Hansberry v. Lee, 311 U.S. 32
- Carter 1980, p. 41.
- "Hansberry, Lorraine". glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture. glbtq, Inc. Retrieved 31 March 2013.
- Carter 1980, p. 42.
- Still, Larry (October 12, 1961). "Oscar Brown musical gets warm reception in windy city". In Johnson, John H. Jet (Chicago, Illinois: Johnson Publishing Company) 20 (25): 58–61. "After the first showing, co-producers Burt Charles D'Lugoff and Robert Nemiroff announced that original director Vinnette Carroll would be replaced by Nemiroff's wife, prize-winning playwright Lorraine (A Raisin In The Sun) Hansberry in her first major directing spot."
- Janet Tripp (1997). Lorraine Hansberry. Lucent Books. p. 56. ISBN 9781560060819. "Although Hansberry was an atheist — that is, she did not believe in God — she strongly disagreed with the absurdist philosophy and its logical conclusion, hopelessness."
- Carter 1980, p. 43.
- Internet Broadway Database: The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window Production Credits
- Buchanan, Paul D (2009), The American women's rights movement : a chronology of events and of opportunities from 1600 to 2008, Branden Books, p. 210, ISBN 978-0-8283-2189-1
- Baldwin, James, Sweet Lorraine, introduction to Hansberry, Lorraine, To Be Young, Gifted and Black: An Informal Autobiography (Signet Paperback 1970), p. xiv. ISBN 0-451-15952-7.
- Peter D. Shaver (August 1999). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Asbury United Methodist Church and Bethel Chapel and Cemetery". New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Retrieved 2010-12-24.
- Les Blancs: The Collected Last Plays of Lorraine Hansberry, Introduction.
- A Raisin in the Sun official website.
- Asante, Molefi Kete (2002). 100 Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Amherst, New York. Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-963-8.
- The Nina Simone Database, "To Be Young, Gifted and Black" (1969)
- Lincoln University website
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Lorraine Hansberry|
- Radio 4 programme "Young, Gifted and Black" to be aired on Tuesday 18/05/2010 at 11:30 (GMT+1)
- Voices from the Gaps: Women Writers of Color - Lorraine Hansberry
- Lorraine Hansberry's Gravesite
- Brooklyn Museum Exhibition - Twice Militant: Lorraine Hansberry's Letters to "The Ladder"