Author & Activist
Lorraine Hansberry was an author and activist known for writing the play A Raisin In The Sun. Lorraine is the youngest American and first Black playwright to win a New York's critics' Circle Award. A Raisin In The Sun was the first play produced on Broadway by an African-American woman.
Born May 19, 1930 in Chicago, IL, Hansberry was the youngest of four children raised by her parents, Nannie Louise and Carl Hansberry. In the mid 1930s, the Hansberry family migrated to a predominantly White housing development where they were taunted and harassed relentlessly. Confident in their rights, the family refused to move even after being urged to do so. The discrimination culminated in the US Supreme Court case of Hansberry v. Lee which ruled racially restrictive covenants illegal. Lorraine, only 10 years old at the time of the case, learned the power of standing for the rights of the oppressed.
Lorraine Hansberry briefly attended University of Wisconsin in Madison where she studied writing, but eventually withdrew her enrollment after 2 years to live in New York. While living in New York, Lorraine continued her studies at The New School. At The New School, Lorraine balanced life as a full time student, waitress, and associate editor of Paul Robeson’s newspaper, Freedom. In 1956, Lorraine quit her daytime occupations and committed herself to being a writer full time.
During this period of her life, Hansberry wrote The Crystal Stair, a play about a struggling black family in Chicago, which was later renamed A Raisin in the Sun, a line from a Langston Hughes poem. A Raisin in the Sun debuted on Broadway in 1959, making it the first play produced on Broadway by an African-American woman. Lorraine is the youngest American and first Black playwright to win a New York's critics' Circle Award. Unfortunately, her triumphs were complicated by homophobia and discrimination. After being outed as a lesbian, Hansberry became more secluded. During the early 60's, Lorraine became a prominent and passionate activist accompanying other well-known Black figures. In 1965, Hansberry's life was cut short by pancreatic cancer.
Lorraine Hansberry's legacy is continued by her grandniece Taye Hansberry renowned fashion icon, lifestyle blogger, and creator of StuffSheLikes.com.