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Playwright Lorraine Hansberry


Cast of a Raisin in the Sun with pic of Lorraine Hansberry

Seans Combs and the Cast of a Raisin in the Sun with pic of Lorraine Hansberry

© Scott Eells/Getty Images

Lorraine Hansberry - Playwright:

Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965) is an American playwright, best known for "A Raisin in the Sun", which in 1959 became the first play by an African American woman to open on Broadway. It also won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award as the best play of the year.

Lorraine Hansberry - Lesbian:

Although Lorraine Hansberry was known as a supporter of equal rights regardless of sexual orientation, it wasn't until after her death that her own sexual orientation was revealed. She was married to Robert Nemiroff in the 1950s, so no one questioned her sexual orientation. However, she did date women and was involved in the early gay rights movement.

Lorraine Hansberry in "The Ladder":

The Ladder was a publication of The Daughters of Bilitis an early lesbian rights organization. Lorraine Hansberry wrote into The Ladder several times it was revealed after her death. (Only her initials were used in the publication.) She wrote in 1957, "One is oppressed or discriminated against because one is different, not 'wrong' or 'bad' somehow."

Lorraine Hansberry Civil Rights Activist:

Lorraine Hansberry's parents were activists and won a long legal battle against housing segregation in Chicago after they moved into a predominantly white neighborhood. It was these events that inspired Hansberry to write A Raisin in the Sun. Hansberry left the University of Wisconsin in 1950 to move to New York City and work beside Paul Robeson on his political journal Freedom.

Lorraine Hansberry Quotes:

Lorraine Hansberry was a feminist and gay rights proponent at a time when such things were considered suspect. She wrote into The Ladder in 1957 calling for a feminist analysis of homophobia:
I think it is about time that equipped women began to take on some of the ethical questions which a male-dominated culture has produced. There may be women to emerge who will be able to formulate a new and possible concept that homosexual persecution and condemnation has at its root not only social ignorance, but a philosophically active anti-feminist dogma."

Late she wrote to the gay magazine ONE. An unpublished letter in 1961 calls out the connection between racism, classism, homophobia and anti-semitism.

I have suspected for a good time that the homosexual in America would ultimately pay a price for the intellectual impoverishment of women. Men continue to misinterpret the second-rate status of women as implying a privileged status for themselves; heterosexual think the same way about homosexuals; gentiles about Jews; whites about blacks; haves about have-nots.

Sources: Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, theroot.com, Gay America: Struggle for Equality
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