Lorraine Vivian Hansberry
Life and Works after A Raisin in the Sun:
Lorraine Hansberry’s The Drinking Gourd, commissioned in 1959 for the National Broadcasting Company, was not produced. The story, dealing with the American slave system, was deemed to controversial for television. In 1963, Hansberry became very active in the Civil Rights Movement in the South. She was a field organizer for CORE (The Congress of Racial Equality) Along with several other celebrated people, including Lena Horne and James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry went to meet with then attorney general Robert Kennedy to challenge his position on Civil Rights. In 1964 Hansberry wrote “The Movement: Documentary of a Struggle for Equality. Also in 1964.”
“As a public speaker she conveyed her belief that art is social and that black writers must address all issues of humankind. As the civil rights movement intensified, she helped to organize fund-raising activities in support of organizations such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), called for the abolition of the House Un-American Activities Committee, and declared that President John F. Kennedy had endangered world peace during the Cubin Missile Crisis. Along with her siblings Lorraine established the Hansberry Foundation, an organization designed to inform African Americans of their civil rights, and encouraged their children to challenge the exclusionary policies of local restaurants and stores.”
Lorraine Hansberry was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and divorced her husband although they continued their literary collaboration. Hansberry’s next play, The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Windowhad only a modest run on Broadway of 101 shows in 1964. By the time it opened at the Longacre Theatre, Lorraine Hansberry was spending most of her time in hospitals due to her battle with pancreatic cancer, which often required Hansberry’s use of a wheelchair to get to and from rehearsals. On January 12, 1965, Lorraine Hansberry died an after her struggle with pancreatic cancer. That same night the curtain closed as The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window gave its last performance.