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The play was first produced in 1959, anticipating by just a few years the powerful civil rights movement that was about to sweep the country. The play helped ready the country for this and contributed to that readiness. Second, many accepted the play as proof that there was no such thing as racism except to racists and those who submit to racism, thus making racism the fault of blacks; in this way, the racism of the country distorted Hansberry’s message about the conflicts in the Younger family. Similarly, audiences insisted on interpreting the ending of the play as happy rather than deeply ambiguous, for this family does not live “happily ever after” but rather face a precarious future living in a neighborhood that does not want them. See Robert Nemiroff’s Introduction to the Vintage Book edition for an interesting discussion of cultural attitudes affecting the reception of the play.
Most importantly is the issue of prejudice and race. Walter's family is black and has moved into a white neighborhood. The neighbors have sent emissaries to "buy" away their home so they will move to some other neighborhood. Pride keeps Walter and his family from taking the money. They will stick it out in this unfriendly neighborhood.
Aside from the issue of racism, the play addresses the issue of poverty and wealth. Even though the play suggests that the family is doing well and that Beneatha will be able to go to school and marry well and they have moved into a nice house in a nice neighborhood, many people in the USA were still living in poverty. The wealthiest were able to afford attorneys to avoid paying taxes on their wealth and the burden fell to the working class to pick up the slack. The loss of the money Walter is playing with effects the entire family's livlihood.
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