Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965 )
A Raisin in the Sun
- Born on the south side of Chicago in 1930 to a middle class black family; her father,
Carl Hansberry, a successful banker and real estate broker, her uncle, a Harvard professor
of African history.
- In 1938, family challenged Chicago's segregation laws by moving into an all-white
neighborhood; evicted from their home, but case eventually won in Illinois Supreme Court.
- Family visitors during teen years included Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Dubois, Duke
Ellington, and Paul Robeson; eventually became deeply involved in social and political
- Studied painting at the Chicago Art Institute, the University of Wisconsin, and the
University of Guadalajara (Mexico);
- Moved to New York in 1950; attended the New School for Social Research, worked at odd
jobs, and turned from painting to writing. Was a reporter and editor for progresssive
black newspaper, Freedom, 1950-53.
- Married song-writer and publisher Robert Nemiroff in 1953; divorced Nemiroff in 1964,
but continued to collaborate with him on writing.
- Died of cancer in January 1965 at the age of 34.
- A Raisin in the Sun, the first play by a Black woman produced on Broadway; ran
for 530 performances in 1959, received the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award.
- Wrote screenplay of A Raisin in the Sun for movie of same name; won special
award for screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival (1961).
- Second play, The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window, less successful on Broadway.
A Raisin in the Sun (play), 1959; (screenplay), 1960.
The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window, 1964.
To Be Young, Gifted, and Black: Lorraine Hansberry in Her Own Words (play based
on her life and work, adapted by Robert Nemiroff), 1969.
Les Blancs: The Collected Last Plays of Lorraine Hansberry, [includes teleplays The
Drinking Gourd and What Use are Flowers?] ed. by Robert
Critical Sources and Reviews
A tremendous amount of biographical and critical material on Hansberry exists, both in
print and online. The selection below attempts to pinpoint some of the most easily
- Biographical and critical information in the following Gale publications:
Contemporary Authors, Volumes 25-28, and 109, Contemporary Authors, New
Revision Series, Volume 58, and Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volumes 17
and 62. Gale Literary Database (Contemporary Authors Online and Contemporary
Literary Criticism Online) can be accessed through a subscribing library at
- Other Gale publications that include Hansberry materials include Dictionary of
Literary Biography, Volume 7: Twentieth Century American Dramatists, and Volume 38:
African American Writers After 1055--Dramatists and Prose Writers; Drama Criticism,
Volume 2; Authors in the News. Volume 2; Black Literature Criticism, 3
vols.; Black Writers; Contemporary Black Biography; Contemporary
Theatre, Film, and Television, Volume 22; Major Twentieth-Century Writers. 4
vols., Black and White, 2 vols.
- Some books and reviews:
- New York Times, March 8, 1959, March 12, 1959, April 9, 1959, January 13, 1965.
- Freedomways 19, no. 4, 1979 [Special issue devoted to Hansberry]
- Commentary, June 1959.
- New Republic, June 9, 1959.
- Newsweek, January 25, 1965.
- New Yorker, May 9, 1959.
- New York Post, March 22, 1959.
- Obituaries on File, compiled by Felice Levy, 2 vols. 1979.
- Carter, Steven R. Hansberry's Drama: Commitment Amid Complexity, 1991.
- Cheney, Anne, Lorraine Hansberry, 1984, pp. 55-71.
- Feminist Writers, ed. Pamela Kester-Shelton, St. James Press, 1996.
- MCKissack, Patricia C. and Frederick L. Young, Black, and Determined: A Biography of
Lorraine Hansberry, 1997
- Scheader, Catherine. Lorraine Hansberry: Playwright and Voice of Justice, 1998.
- Tripp, Janet. Lorraine Hansberry, 1998.
Retired Discussion Series