Who Was Lorraine Hansberry? 5 Things You Didn’t Know

If the name Lorraine Hansberry doesn’t ring a bell, we have some interesting information that may just give you an “aha” moment. She was an American writer, who stood the literary world on its head with her prolific enigmatic and radical writing. Being nothing short of brilliant in her approach, Hansberry wielded the full power of the pen in the punchy writing style that was and still is hard to ignore. Here are five important facts about her that you most likely didn’t know.

A documentary has been made about her writing

Filmmaker Tracy Heather Strain is so taken with Lorraine’s work that she put together a powerful documentary so people would know who she was and what she stood for. It aired recently on PBS and if you didn’t catch it, you can find out more. The title is found in the PBS new American Masters category under “Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart.” In the documentary you’ll discover that Hansberry truly spoke ‘truth to power.’

Lorraine was a social activist

Lorraine Hansberry was an avid civil rights activist because she understood clearly, that people need a champion in this life. She herself, knew what it was to be discriminated against. Hansberry was born into a Black family and grew up when the civil rights movement could use all the voices it could get. She was also a lesbian who kept her sexual preference as classified information, not able to come out during the tumultuous era in which basic human rights were denied on a regular basis, for certain groups of people in society.

Lorraine used the theater to share her views

As well as being a political activists, Lorraine Hansberry was also a brilliant writer. In fact, she is considered to be one of the greatest female, and African-American playwrights in all of the history of Broadway. She reached out to the world through her plays. This gave her a platform for sharing her views. It was a critical time in the history of the civil rights movement. She was passionate about the causes and people that she stood in support of.

Hansberry was associated with very important people

Lorraine surrounded herself with many people who were important to the civil rights movement, as well as people who held a measure of influence and celebrity status in the world. Louis Gossett, Jr., credited her with being a bit ahead of here time, but nonetheless, an effective female activist. Colleagues of hers included famous actor Sydney Poitier, Harry Belafonte and Ruby Dee. These were important voices for the movement to bring equality for all people as a basic right of all within the United States.

Lorraine’s goal was to change society for the better

Hansberry was the daughter of parents who were also outspoken advocates for civil rights. Her father was brave and daring enough to move his family into an all white neighborhood during tumultuous times. He was known as a “race man” who sought to make the world a better place for African Americans. Lorraine was inspired by her father and the play that she wrote may have been a little ahead of its time, but it won top prize from the prestigious New York Drama Critic’s Circle, which was no small feat. She is a tremendously important historical figure and through the documentary, Strain and her crew are making the public aware of just who Lorraine Hansberry was, what she stood for, and why her radical work is so important to the world today. Hansberry, sadly passed away when she was in her 30s, but she left her mark on the world, and those who know its value are keeping it alive as a relevant piece of history that deserves a second look.

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