Lorraine Hansberry: Playwright, Activist, Important Civil Rights Figure

Screen Shot 2018-12-04 at 8.55.38 AMLorraine Hansberry was born on May 19, 1930, in Chicago, Illinois. Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun was the first drama by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway. Widely acclaimed, it helped pave the way for other black playwrights. She completed only two plays in her short life but left unfinished works that published posthumously, extended her contribution to literature, theater, and the Civil Rights Movement.

Hansberry was the first black playwright and the youngest American to win a New York Critics’ Circle award.

Throughout her life, she was heavily involved in civil rights. She died at 34 of pancreatic cancer. In New York, Hansberry attended the New School for Social Research and then worked for Paul Robeson’s progressive black newspaper, Freedom, as a writer and associate editor from 1950 to 1953. She also worked part-time as a waitress and cashier and wrote in her spare time. By 1956, Hansberry quit her jobs and committed her time to write.


Despite their middle-class status, the Hansberrys were subject to segregation. When she was 8 years old, Hansberry’s family deliberately attempted to move into a restricted neighborhood. Restrictive covenants, in which white property owners agreed not to sell to blacks, created a ghetto known as the “Black Belt” on Chicago’s South Side. Carl Hansberry, with the help of Harry H. Pace, president of the Supreme Liberty Life Insurance Company and several white realtors, secretly bought property at 413 E. 60th Street and 6140 S. Rhodes Avenue. The Hansberrys moved into the house on Rhodes Avenue in May 1937. The family was threatened by a white mob, which threw a brick through a window, narrowly missing Lorraine. The Supreme Court of Illinois upheld the legality of the restrictive covenant and forced the family to leave the house. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision on a legal technicality. The result was the opening of 30 blocks of South Side Chicago to African Americans. Although the case did not argue that racially restrict covenants were unlawful, it marked the beginning of their end.

In 1963, Hansberry became active in the Civil Rights Movement. Along with other influential people, including Harry Belafonte, Lena Horne, and James Baldwin, Hansberry met with then attorney general Robert Kennedy to test his position on civil rights.

There is so much more to this amazing Lady! Lorraine used her artistic talents to speak out and educate America on the life of black people. I feel it was/is important to share information about people like Lorraine Hansberry here at Nevah Black Down.  Her elegance and dynamic eloquence were and are an inspiration to many people.  I am sure there are still many people who do not have this information.  She is an immensely important figure in the ongoing discussion about racial injustice and racism.  There is a plethora of information that is available and I feel must continue to be shared!

Nevah Black Down


We are a group of passionate artists and creatives who believe in telling and sharing inspiring stories.

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