Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Lorraine Hansberry

Today’s AWU WOD is Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965). She was the first African-American woman playwright to have a play produced on Broadway. “A Raisin in the Sun" debuted in 1959, it was inspired by her family's legal battle against racially segregated housing laws in the Washington Park Subdivision of the South Side of Chicago during her childhood. “A Raisin in the Sun” was hugely successful and helped to launch her career. In addition to being a playwright she also wrote political speeches, essays and letters. Hansberry contributed to the understanding of abortion, discrimination, and Africa. She joined the Daughters of Bilitis and contributed letters to their magazine, The Ladder, in 1957 that addressed feminism and homophobia. Although Hansberry married a white Jewish man, Robert Nemiroff in 1953, the couple separated in 1957 and divorced in 1964, it is rumored that Hansberry was a Lesbian. Hansberry was conscious of her lesbian identity and she negotiated between the public and private spheres. Black lesbians encountered racism from the mainstream, white gay culture, and also persecution from heterosexual blacks. Hansberry spent her short life trying to raise awareness of the troubles of the world through her literature. She suffered a long battle with pancreatic cancer and died on January 12, 1965, at the age of 34. Her premature death, cut short a promising career. A message from Martin Luther King Jr. was read at her funeral: "Her creative ability and her profound grasp of the deep social issues confronting the world today will remain an inspiration to generations yet unborn." He was right, her legacy lives on, both " A Raisin in the Sun and A Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window are staples of high school English classrooms. ".

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