A Raisin in the Sun: Lorraine Hansberry originally titled the play The Crystal Stair, after a line in the Langston Hughes’ poem titled Mother to Son.
Eventually, Hansberry would re-name the play A Raisin in the Sun,
after another Langston Hughes poem.
Langston Hughes was an American poet, novelist, and playwright whose African-American themes made him a primary contributor to the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s.
Harlem: A Dream Deferred:
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore– And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over– like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
– Langston Hughes
Hughes poem addresses the state of Black dreams at a time, 20 years after the great depression had killed the Harlem Renaissance and devastated Black communities. Black dreams and opportunities seemed to be an afterthought amid the rampant racism happening before the beginning of the major Civil Rights Movement. Harlem: A Dream Deferred captures the tension between the need for black expression and the impossibility of expression because of American Society’s oppression. Hansberry’s reference to Hughes’s poem in her play’s title highlights the importance of dreams in A Raisin in the Sun., and the struggle of the characters within the play to realize their individual dreams, which are all tied to the major dream of equality within America.