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January 12, 1965
New York City, New York, U.S.
Lorraine Vivian Hansberry (May 19, 1930 – January 12, 1965) was an African-American playwright and writer.
She was the first black woman to write a play performed on Broadway. Her best known work, the play A Raisin in the Sun, highlights the lives of Black Americans living under racial segregation in Chicago. Hansberry's family had struggled against segregation, challenging a restrictive covenant and eventually provoking the Supreme Court case Hansberry v. Lee. The title of the play was taken from the poem "Harlem" by Langston Hughes: "What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?"
At the young age of 29, she won the New York's Drama Critic's Circle Award — making her the first black dramatist, the fifth woman, and the youngest playwright to do so.
After she moved to New York City, Hansberry worked at the Pan-Africanist newspaper Freedom, where she dealt with intellectuals such as Paul Robeson and W. E. B. Du Bois. Much of her work during this time concerned the African struggle for liberation and their impact on the world. Hansberry has been identified as a lesbian, and sexual freedom is an important topic in several of her works. She died of cancer at the age of 34. Hansberry inspired Nina Simone's song "To Be Young, Gifted and Black".
Last Updated: December 6, 2017