Critical Context (Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series)
A Raisin in the Sun holds an important place in the history of African American drama. It was the first play by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway. It enjoyed a successful run, won the prestigious Drama Critics’ Circle Award, and is still frequently performed in regional and university theaters. Two quality film versions of the play have been produced, the first in 1961 with Sidney Poitier (who starred in the original Broadway production) as Walter and a second in 1989 (an American Playhouse production filmed for television) with Danny Glover in that role. The play has been enjoyed by audiences of all races and age groups. It is frequently included in literature anthologies used in high school and college courses.
Unfortunately, Lorraine Hansberry never duplicated the success that she achieved with A Raisin in the Sun. A handful of subsequent plays received mixed reviews and are rarely performed, and Hansberry died of cancer before her thirty-fifth birthday. Nevertheless, the success of A Raisin in the Sun opened theater doors to other African American playwrights such as James Baldwin, LeRoi Jones, Ed Bullins, and Ntozake Shange.