In 1959, with the premiere of A Raisin in the Sun at New York’s Ethel Barrymore Theatre, twenty-eight-year-old playwright Lorraine Hansberry made theater history, becoming the first African American woman to have a work produced on Broadway. And it was just two years later that she also left her indelible mark on the movies, as the play—a searing and compassionate portrait of the Youngers, a middle-class black family trying to secure a life for themselves beyond the cramped confines of their Chicago apartment—made its way to the screen with most of its powerhouse theatrical cast (including Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee) intact. In this clip, taken from a supplement on our new edition of the film, Princeton professor Imani Perry, the author of the biography Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical life of Lorraine Hansberry, details some of the firsthand experiences that would go on to inform the playwright’s masterpiece. As Perry explains, when Hansberry was a child, her family moved to a predominantly white Chicago neighborhood only to face violent intimidation and, finally, eviction, leading her father to file a lawsuit against the city’s restrictive housing covenants that eventually prevailed in the U.S. Supreme Court—and Hansberry herself to describe a similar situation faced by the Youngers.
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