Lorraine Hansberry Analysis

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

What advantages did the roster of guests at the Hansberry home confer on young Lorraine Hansberry as a future writer?

What convictions distinguish Hansberry’s kind of realism from literary naturalism?

What is the origin of the title A Raisin in the Sun? Discuss the aptness of the metaphor in this title.

How does Hansberry keep the development of her theme free of didacticism in A Raisin in the Sun?

To what extent was The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window a new departure for Hansberry?

Why is Hansberry’s work sometimes referred to as “existentialist”?

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

As a result of her involvement in the Civil Rights movement, Lorraine Hansberry wrote the narrative for The Movement: Documentary of a Struggle for Equality (1964), a book of photographs, for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Because she died at such a young age, Hansberry left much of her work unpublished, but her husband, Robert Nemiroff, the literary executor of her estate, edited and submitted some of it for publication and, in the case of Les Blancs, production. In addition, he arranged excerpts from Hansberry’s various writings into a seven-and-a-half-hour radio program entitled To Be Young, Gifted, and Black, which was broadcast on radio station WBAI in 1967. This program was later adapted for the stage, opening at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York on January 2, 1969, and becoming the longest running production of the 1968-1969 season. Many readers know Hansberry through the anthology of her writings edited by Nemiroff, To Be Young, Gifted, and Black: Lorraine Hansberry in Her Own Words (1969), a book that has enjoyed very wide circulation.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Lorraine Hansberry’s career was very brief, only two of her plays being produced in her lifetime, yet she recorded some very impressive theatrical achievements. She was only twenty-nine when A Raisin in the Sun appeared on Broadway, and its great success earned for her recognition that continues to this day. When A Raisin in the Sun was voted best play of the year by the New York Drama Critics Circle, she became the first black person as well as the youngest person to win the award. In 1973, a musical adapted from A Raisin in the Sun, entitled Raisin (with libretto by Nemiroff), won a Tony Award as best musical of the year (1974). She was respected and befriended by such figures as Paul Robeson and James Baldwin, and she helped in an active way to further the work of the Civil Rights movement. Though her later work has received far less recognition than her first play, A Raisin in the Sun continues to enjoy a broad popularity.


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Carter, Steven R. Hansberry’s Drama: Commitment Amid Complexity. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991. An examination of Hansberry’s plays from the political standpoint. Bibliography and index.

Cheney, Anne. Lorraine Hansberry. New York: Twayne, 1994. A basic biography of Hansberry that examines her life and works. Bibliography and index.

Domina, Lynn. Understanding “A Raisin in the Sun”: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1998. A study that places Hansberry’s works and life in context and examines her portrayal of African Americans in literature. Includes a bibliography and an index.

Effiong, Philip U. In Search of a Model for African American Drama: A Study of Selected Plays by Lorraine Hansberry, Amiri Baraka, and Ntozake Shange. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 2000. A study of the plays of three prominent African Americans, including Hansberry. Includes a bibliography and an index.

Kappel, Lawrence, ed. Readings on “A Raisin in the Sun.” San Diego, Calif.: Greenhaven Press, 2001. A collection of essays that deal with aspects of Hansberry’s most famous work. Includes a bibliography and an index.

Keppel, Ben. The Work of Democracy: Ralph Bunche, Kenneth B. Clark, Lorraine Hansberry, and the Cultural Politics of Race. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1995. Keppel examines race relations and the Civil Rights movement, including a discussion of Hansberry’s role in the movement. Includes a bibliography and an index.

Leeson, Richard M. Lorraine Hansberry: A Research and Production Sourcebook. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1997. This sourcebook focuses on Hansberry as a dramatist, examining her portrayal of African Americans in literature. Includes a bibliography and an index.

Scheader, Catherine. Lorraine Hansberry: A Playwright and Voice of Justice. Springfield, N.J.: Enslow, 1998. A biography that examines Hansberry’s dual roles as civil rights advocate and dramatist. Includes a bibliography and an index.