African American playwright and essayist Lorraine Hansberry (1930Ė1965) was born on this day in Chicago, Illinois. At age 20, she moved to Harlem and wrote for Raul Robeson's progressive newspaper, Freedom.
"Money is life. Once upon a time freedom used to be lifeónow it's money," she wrote in her play A Raisin in the Sun, (1959); the title from the line of a Langston Hughes poem.
The masterpiece, which captured the spirit of the American Civil Rights movement, was the first written by a black woman to be produced on Broadway.
A "living-room" drama, the play was inspired by her family's personal experiences as they pursued the American Dream despite difficult odds and spoke to the heart of an emerging black audience.
"For a person to bear his life, he needs a valid re-creation of that life," Hansberry said. "Which is why, as Ray Charles might put it, blacks chose to sing the blues."
Hailed as "a watershed in American drama" and named the best American play of 1959 by The New York Drama Critics Circle, A Raisin in the Sun was made into a 1961 film starring Sidney Poitier and received a special award at the Cannes Film Festival.
"Never be afraid to sit awhile and think," said Hansberry. Although her promising career and life were cut short by pancreatic cancer, A Raisin in the Sun lives on as a relevant inspiration to contemporary audiences.
The talented writer once observed: "There is always something left to love. And if you ainít learned that, you ainít learned nothing."
Celebrate what makes you exceptional.