A Brilliant Mind Gone Too Soon: The Story of Lorraine Hansberry

In 1930, Lorraine Hansberry was born in Chicago, Illinois. Her father Carl Augustus Hansberry was a successful real estate broker who also founded the lake street bank, one of the first banks for blacks in Chicago. Her mother, Nannie Louise was a driving school teacher and a committeewoman.

In 1938, her father purchased a home in the Washington Park subdivision of the south side of Chicago. Hansberry and her family would find themselves in the midst of legal battle after local white residents wanted the “restrictive covenant” upheld that prevented black families from moving into white neighborhoods. The Hansberry’s had to deal with a white mob, who used scare tactics like throwing bricks through their windows.

This supreme court case Hansberry vs Lee and her overall experience with that situation was the motivation to write her now world-famous play, A Raisin in the Sun. Hansberry was the first black female author to produce a play on Broadway. 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”? It’s important to note that, besides her brilliant career as a playwright and author, she was heavily involved in activism at an early age. In 1951, she joined the staff of the black journal Freedom Newspaper which was published by Paul Robeson. While at the newspaper, she worked with W.E.B Du Bois and other black Pan African thought leaders.

Throughout her life, Hansberry was extremely concerned with the plight of Black America and wasn’t afraid to speak on it. When asked how can black people go about liberating themselves she was quoted as saying “Blacks must concern themselves with every single means of struggle: legal, illegal, passive, active, violent and non-violent… They must harass, debate, petition, give money to court struggles, sit-in, lie-down, strike, boycott, sing hymns, pray on steps—and shoot from their windows when the racists come cruising through their communities”.

In 1965, Hansberry died at the young age of 34 years old after losing her fight with pancreatic cancer.













Lorraine Hansberry Biography


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