Twentieth Century Literary Giants
Courtesy of Eva Jessye Collection, Pittsburg State University, Kansas; Special Collections Department, Leonard H. Axe Library.
Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun (1959) was the first play by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway. Depicting the struggles of a black family whose dreams of economic progress have been thwarted, both the play and the film that followed it in 1961 were well received, making Hansberry the first black recipient of the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. They have since become American classics. As the civil rights movement intensified, Hansberry's success as a writer and public speaker helped her to organize fund raising activities in support of organizations such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), call for the abolition of the House Un-American Activities Committee, and pursue other political goals before cancer tragically cut short her promising career.