Sidney Poitier with his first wife, Juanita Hardy, and playwright Lorraine Hansberry at the opening of “A Raisin in the Sun” in New York City in 1959. Photo: Moneta Sleet for Ebony magazine via Art.com.
Inspired by her family’s court room mêlée against racially-segregated Chicago subdivision housing laws in her childhood, Lorraine Hansberry wrote a seminal piece of African-American history. Her magnum opus A Raisin in the Sun, bought the civil rights playwright and bestselling author a legion of fans and quickly turned her to a household name.
Lorraine Hansberry's best known work was A Raisin in the Sun. In 1957 she joined the lesbian organization Daughters of Bilitis and contributed letters to their magazine, The Ladder, that addressed feminism and homophobia. While she addressed her lesbian identity in the articles she wrote for the magazine, she wrote under the initials L.H. for fear of being discovered as a black lesbian.
Lorraine Hansberry was born on May 19, 1930, in Chicago, Illinois. She wrote A Raisin in the Sun, a play about a struggling black family, which opened on Broadway to great success. Hansberry was the first black playwright and the youngest American to win a New York Critics’ Circle award. Throughout her life she was heavily involved in civil rights. She died at 34 of pancreatic cancer.