Lorraine Hansberry was born in theWoodlawn neighborhood.The family then moved into an all-whiteneighborhood, where they faced racialdiscrimination.
•Hansberry attended a predominantly white public schoolwhile her parents fought against segregation.•This experience later inspired her to write her mostfamous work, A Raisin in the Sun.•Attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison andworked on the staff of Freedom magazine.•Died of pancreatic cancer
Published in 1959, four yearsafter Rosa Parks’ was arrestedfor refusing to give up her seatto a white person on a bus,sparking the Civil RightsMovement, Hansberry’s playillustrates black America’sstruggle to gain equal access toopportunity and expression ofcultural identity.
Martin Luther King, Jr.Civil-Rights Leader1929-1968I have a dream… a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live outthe true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’
•Debuted on Broadway in 1959.• First play written by a black woman to beproduced on Broadway•Story is based upon a familys ownexperiences growing up in ChicagosWoodlawn neighborhood.•The title comes from the opening lines of"Harlem", a poem by Langston Hughes
Mrs. Lena Younger(Mama)—Matriarch of thefamily. She has strongvalues and ideas abouthow to run her family;these sometimes conflictwith those of her grownchildren.Mama does notunderstand how herchildren turned outthe way they did.
Walter Lee (Brother)— Mrs.Younger’s eldest child. He wants to starthis own liquor business, against hisfamily’s wishes. Walter wants thingsthat no one else believes he canhave.Beneatha—Walter Lee’syounger sister. She plans to goto medical school after collegeand has ideals many peoplefind difficult to understand.
Ruth Younger Walter Lee’swife, who wants a tranquilhome, but who experiencesdifficulty in communicating withher husband. Pregnant, she isconsidering having an abortion.Travis Younger—Walter andRuth’s son. Both his parentswant him to aim for a life withmore advantages than theyhave been able to provide.
Joseph Asagai—One of Beneatha’sgentleman friends; a fellow student at herschool who is originally from Africa. In themidst of crisis, he shows Beneatha anunexpected side of his personality.George Murchison—Another friend ofBeneatha’s. Because he is rich, the familyurges Beneatha to marry him, but she is notso sure this is what she wants.Karl Lindner—A white man representing anew-neighbor committee, who wants to makea humiliating “deal” with the Younger family.
Bobo—One of the men Walter wants to start a liquorbusiness with; he delivers some shocking news to thefamily.Mrs. Johnson—Nosy neighbor of the Youngers, whocannot help hinting that there might be direconsequences if the family moves to the newneighborhood.Walter Younger Senior—Deceased husband ofMrs. Younger. How the money from his insurancepolicy will be used is a source of conflict for theYounger family.
Their apartment is too old and small, and theynever seem to have enough money.
But one day the Youngers get a check for tenthousand dollars in the mail.
Not surprisingly, theyall have different ideason what they should dowith the money.Will the decision theymake save the family ordestroy it?
The Youngers live on the South Side of Chicagoin the 1950s.
In the 1950s, African Americans faced a lotdiscrimination.Racially motivatedlynchings, bombings,and fires were notuncommon.
In 1949, New Jersey and Connecticut becamethe first states to outlaw segregation of publicplaces.In 1954, the Supreme Court found in favor ofthe plaintiffs in the Brown v. The Board ofEducation case. However, the segregation ofschools didn’t begin to take effect until 1957.Moreover, the case’s decision did not abolishsegregation in other public areas, such asrestaurants and restrooms.But that did not mean that states and citiesenforced desegregation rulings.
African Americans faceddiscrimination inhousing: White peopleliving in certainneighborhoods allagreed not to sell theirhomes to AfricanAmericans.
Because of segregation and discrimination,African Americans often had to work in low-paying jobs.For example, in the play, Walter is a chauffeurand Ruth cleans houses.
The 1950s was also atime when AfricanAmericans began tocome together to fightfor their civil rights.
African Americans werealso beginning to findways to celebrate theirunique identity and theirAfrican heritage.
Discuss (1)What would happen if you got ten thousand inthe mail? What would you want to do with it?• What do you think your family would want todo with it?• Do you think you would all agree? Why or whynot?
Discuss (2)• Have you ever experienced discrimination?How so? How did you react?• What do you think you would do if someonetried to tell you that you could not live in his orher neighborhood?