Arts » Theater

Lorraine Hansberry Lives!

by Brian Bromberger
Saturday Feb 10, 2018
African-American lesbian playwright Lorraine Hansberry. Photo: PBS
African-American lesbian playwright Lorraine Hansberry. Photo: PBS  (Source:PBS)

In 2016, when The Denver Post asked 177 theater professionals nationwide what were the 10 most important American plays, "A Raisin in the Sun" was ranked #8. Arguably the original promulgator of Black Lives Matter, the African-American lesbian playwright Lorraine Hansberry, though dead 53 years, hasn't been forgotten. Her life is celebrated in the PBS American Master series in an electrifying documentary, "Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart," which can be streamed for free until Feb. 16. While her play is now considered a classic drama, winning the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award, but shamefully not the Pulitzer Prize, little about her life has been publicly known. While "Raisin" was a landmark accomplishment, it was only one part of a multifaceted lifelong commitment to fighting injustice during the Civil Rights movement.

Hansberry's quest for equality must have been in her genes. Her father Carl was a wealthy real-estate broker on the south side of Chicago, where she was born in May 1930. When he bought a house in a white neighborhood in 1938, the Hansberrys were eventually forced out, even though he fought all the way to the Supreme Court. Disillusioned by the legal system, Carl moved to Mexico City as an exile, dying of a stroke. The 15-year-old Lorraine, who had remained in Chicago to finish high school, believed racism killed him. He was the most significant person in her life, inspiring her quest for liberation.


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