Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Lorraine Hansberry  

Pen Name: LHN


Audience: Adult;

Born: May 5, 1930 in Chicago, Illinois

Died: January 12, 1965 in New York City, New York

-- Lorraine Hansberry on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Hansberry was born in and grew up in Chicago.

Biographical and Professional Information

Lorraine Hansberry was an American playwright and author. She grew up in Chicago, where her father, a real estate broker, fought a long legal battle against codes that enforced racial segregation in her all-white neighborhood. The case went to the Supreme Court. This experience inspired her most famous work, ''A Raisin in the Sun'', a study of a black family in Chicago and was the first play by a black woman to be produced on Broadway. It won the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award, and the 1961 film version won a special award at the Cannes Film Festival. Before her untimely death from cancer, she also wrote, ''The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window''.Her ex-husband, Robert Nemiroff, assembled a posthumous collection of Hansberry's letters and diary entries titled, ''To Be Young Gifted and Black''.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

A Raisin in the Sun
ISBN: 0679755330

Vintage. 2004

This groundbreaking play starred Sidney Poitier, Claudia McNeill, Ruby Dee and Diana Sands in the Broadway production which opened in 1959. Set on Chicago's South Side, the plot revolves around the divergent dreams and conflicts within three generations of the Younger family: son Walter Lee, his wife Ruth, his sister Beneatha, his son Travis and matriarch Lena, called Mama. When her deceased husband's insurance money comes through, Mama dreams of moving to a new home and a better neighborhood in Chicago. Walter Lee, a chauffeur, has other plans, however: buying a liquor store and being his own man. Beneatha dreams of medical school.

The tensions and prejudice they face form this seminal American drama. Sacrifice, trust and love among the Younger family and their heroic struggle to retain dignity in a harsh and changing world is a searing and timeless document of hope and inspiration. Winner of the NY Drama Critic's Award as Best Play of the Year, it has been hailed as a "pivotal play in the history of the American Black theatre." by Newsweek and "a milestone in the American Theatre." by Ebony.

The Sign in Brustein's Window: A Drama in Two Acts
ISBN: 0573615411

S. French. 1986

Book by Hansberry, Lorraine

To Be Young, Gifted and Black
ISBN: 0679764151

Vintage. 1996

Assembled from plays, essays, letters, drawings, and photographs, this memoir records the passionate engagement and spectacular accomplishment of the playwright of A Raisin in the Sun.

It follows Lorraine Hansberry from her childhood in Chicago (where her family encountered vicious resistance when it moved into a white neighborhood), through her arrival in New York, where the triumph of A Raisin in the Sun made her famous virtually overnight, to her death at the tragically early age of thirty-four. Above all, Hansberry's autobiography rings with the voice of its creator: a black woman who could be angry, loving, bitter, touchingly funny, and defiantly proud.


  • Name engraved on the frieze of the Illinois State Library alongside other great Illinois literary figures, 1990
  • Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, 2010