Lorraine Hansberry was a history-making playwright and author who became the first Black woman to have a play produced on Broadway. Hansberry’s most famous work, A Raisin In The Sun remains one of the best known plays ever written by a Black playwright.
Hansberry was born on May 19, 1930 in Chicago, Ill. She was raised middle-class by her father, a real estate broker, and her mother, a school teacher. When the family moved to Washington Park on Chicago’s South Side, they dealt with racism from whites that wanted to force them out of the subdivision. Hansberry’s parents, both Republicans, fought for their rights in a case that made it all the way into the Supreme Court. The family was close friends with Black intellectuals W.E.B. Du Bois and Paul Robeson, who often visited with them.
Hansberry’s journey towards activism and writing took place when she entered the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1948. She became politically active and helped to integrate a dorm at the school. She left the school in 1950, hoping to embark on a career as a writer in Harlem. While in New York, she worked for Robeson’s newspaper, Freedom, and worked alongside Du Bois. In 1953, she married Jewish songwriter and publisher Robert Nemiroff, and the pair began writing together.