Introduction—Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart (03:23)
Lorraine Hansberry was born in the south side of Chicago during the Great Depression. Friends and experts describe her desire to write about man's inhumanity to man. (Credits)
Hansberry's Family (04:13)
Carl Augustus Hansberry graduated from Alcorn A&M College and moved to Chicago during the Great Migration. He became known as the “kitchenette king,” served as the secretary of the local chapter of the NAACP, and fought against racial discrimination.
Hansberry's Childhood (05:59)
Blacks could not buy homes in nice neighborhoods because of strict deed covenants. African-Americans were treated like second-class citizens. In 1937, Carl moved his family to an affluent white neighborhood; Hansberry v. Lee opened 500 new homes to black residents.
Death of Hansberry's Father (02:00)
Chicago remained highly segregated; Carl grew frustrated and realized the legal system would never combat discrimination. The family moved to Mexico; Hansberry remained behind to complete high school.
Moving to New York City (06:08)
Hansberry spent two years at the University of Wisconsin and then worked at "Freedom," a new African American paper in Harlem. Hansberry noticed the FBI surveillance, travel bans and arrests, but refused to be intimidated.
Hansberrry's Marriage (04:48)
Under pressure, Hansberry married Robert Nemiroff, a Jewish publisher and political activist.
Impact of "The Second Sex" (06:41)
Hansberry wrote character sketches and narrative themes in workshop at her Greenwich Village Apartment. Friends and experts talk about the birth of Off-Broadway as a vehicle for social justice.
Hansberry's Writing Career (02:18)
Hansberry wrote freelance articles, taught school, and waitressed at her in-law's restaurant, while completing a novel and play. Nemiroff and Burt D'Lugoff created the song, "Cindy, Oh Cindy."
"A Raisin in the Sun": Origination (08:20)
Hansberry decided to write a play about working-class African Americans, drawing from the personalities she grew up with in Chicago. Philip Rose offered to produce her play on Broadway. Sidney Poitier read her first draft and agreed to sign on to her role; experts discuss original casting choices.
"A Raisin in the Sun": Complications (04:45)
Rose finds it difficult to obtain investors for the controversial play. The producer schedules two tryouts in cities to prove that an audience will attend.
"A Raisin in the Sun": Plot (04:09)
Hansberry portrays the limitations of the American Dream as experienced by Black Americans. John Schubert saw the audience leave and decided to provide a Broadway Theater.
Addressing the First Conference of Negro Writers (07:15)
Listen to excerpts of her speech. "A Raisin in the Sun" premieres at the Ethel Barrymore Theater. The actors received a standing ovation; Hansberry refused to go up on stage but Poitier convinced her.
Successful Playwright (05:40)
Critics loved "A Raisin in the Sun" and the cast celebrated. Hansberry accepted interviews to discuss her platform for social justice.
Hottest Ticket on Broadway (06:01)
Ossie Davis assumed the role of Walter Lee Younger after Poitier returned to Hollywood. Hansberry refuses to sell Columbia Pictures the rights to the play if she cannot write the screenplay. Sam Brisken wrote 106 changes that should be made to her second draft.
Hansberry's Divorce (05:13)
Nemiroff and Hansberry separate. Hansberry writes several short stories of lesbian fiction under the pseudonym "Emily Jones." She was able to keep the details of her sexual life away from the FBI file and the public.
Lack of Community (02:57)
Most of Hansberry's gay friends were white. The writer moved to Croton-on-Hudson to create a writing sanctuary.
Birmingham, 1963 (06:45)
Doctors admit Hansberry for testing. The writer attended a meeting with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to discuss George Wallace's attempt to maintain segregation. Harry Belafonte recalls the conversation.
Civil Rights Advocate (03:12)
Hansberry hosts a fundraiser for "The Southern Freedom Movement." In the midst of writing "The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window," the writer undergoes surgery; doctors discover pancreatic cancer.
"The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window": Preparation (04:06)
Hansberry ignored Nemiroff's revision requests and recuperated from surgery. Four black girls were murdered in the bombing of the 16th St Baptist Church in Birmingham.
Hansberry's Declining Health (06:16)
Hansberry went into the hospital for her pancreatic cancer, writing revisions for "The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window," and writing about the civil rights movement. On June 15th, Hansberry participates in a forum on "The Black Revolution and the White Backlash" with Ruby Dee, Ossie Jones, and LeRoi Jones.
Musings From Home (01:52)
Hansberry wondered if her words were enough of a contribution to the struggle and thought she would go south once she felt healthier. Locals shot three activists who were driving the car that Hansberry's fundraiser provided.
"The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window": Premiere (04:14)
Hansberry and Nemiroff attended the premiere. Critics disparaged the play.
"The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window": Closed (06:33)
Hansberry temporarily lost her sight and fell into a coma. Her husband and doctor's did not tell her that her illness was terminal. Nina Simone brought her record player to the hospital.
Credits: Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart (03:59)
Credits: Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart
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