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May 19

Lorraine Hansbury

Hansberry’s Raisin in the Sun takes its name from a poem by Langston Hughes. The story behind the play is reflected in her autobiography To Be Young, Gifted, and Black.

Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-111432

1930: Young, Gifted, and Black
Lorraine Hansberry is born in Chicago, Illinois
With her powerful drama A Raisin in the Sun, playwright Lorraine Hansberry broke multiple barriers.

When it opened in New York City in 1959, the play was the first to be written and directed by an African American, Lloyd Richards. And when her work was voted Best American Play by the New York Drama Critics’s Circle, the 29-year-old Hansberry became the youngest recipient of that prestigious award. Raisin was partly inspired by racial incidents suffered by Hansberry’s family when they moved into a segregated neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago in 1937.

Hansberry went on to write other works for stage, screen, and television. Though she died at only 34, Hansberry’s influence echoes with generations of young writers dedicated to uncovering racism and other injustices with their words.

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