Playwright, director, writer. Born Lorraine Vivian Hansberry on May 19, 1930, in Chicago, Illinois. During her brief life, Lorraine Hansberry made a lasting contribution to the field of African American literature. She also broke new ground as the first African American woman to have a play produced on Broadway. Her greatest work, A Raisin in the Sun, premiered on Broadway in 1959. The play tells the story of one African American family’s experiences—their hopes and challenges—living in Chicago’s South Side neighborhood during the 1950s. The show was a smash hit and won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. It was later turned into the 1961 film, starring Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee. Her second play, The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window (1964), did not fare as well. A few of her other works were produced posthumously.
Lorraine Hansberry died on January 12, 1965. She married to Robert Nemiroff in 1953; the couple divorced the year before her death. More than 600 people attended her funeral at a church in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood. Actors Paul Robeson and Ruby Dee spoke at the service. Hansberry lives on through her play, which has been performed numerous times since her death. Most recently there was a 2004 revival of the show on Broadway, featuring Sean Combs, Audra McDonald and Phylicia Rashad.
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