Introduction to lorraine hansberry s a raisin in the sun
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Introduction to Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. Social Background.

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Social background
Social Background

  • Published in 1959, four years after Rosa Parks’ was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white person on a bus, sparking the Civil Rights Movement, Hansberry’s play illustrates black America’s struggle to gain equal access to opportunity and expression of cultural identity.

Sentiments in A Raisin… will be echoed by MLK in later speeches, marches, and rallies

Martin Luther King, Jr.Civil-Rights Leader


I have a dream… a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’

Cont d dreams represented in the play and later echoed by king
Cont’d dreams represented in the play and later echoed by King

  • I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

  • I have a dream…where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.

In 1954, the Supreme Court found in favor of the plaintiffs in the Brown v. The Board of Education case. However, the desegregation of schools didn’t begin to take effect until 1957. Moreover, the case’s decision did not abolish segregation in other public areas, such as restaurants and restrooms.

1930 1965
1930-1965 in the

  • A Raisin…is the 1st play by a black woman to be produced on Broadway

    Other Works:




  • LES BLANCS: THE COLLECTED LAST PLAYS: The Drinking Gourd / What Use Are Flowers?

  • Lorraine Hansberry took the title of in the A Raisin in the Sun from a line in Langston Hughes's famous 1951 poem “Harlem.”

  • Hughes was a prominent black poet during the 1920s Harlem Renaissance in New York City, during which black artists of all kinds—musicians, poets, writers—gave innovative voices to their personal and cultural experiences.

  • The Harlem Renaissance was a time of immense promise and hopefulness for black artists, as their efforts were noticed and applauded across the United States.

Harlem by langston hughes
Harlem in the by Langston Hughes

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?

A dream deferred
A Dream Deferred in the

  • Watch this clip from a Nike commercial and pay attention to the words used in it.

    Sanya Richards Nike Ad ~A Dream Deferred~ (2008)

  • The above commercial uses a poem by Langston Hughes entitled “Harlem”

Themes present in arits

Themes present in ARITS in the

Manly Pride

Themes present in arits1

Themes present in ARITS in the

Cultural Pride

Themes present in arits2

Themes present in ARITS in the

Family Pride

Characters in the

  • Mrs. Lena Younger (Mama)—Matriarch of the family. She has strong values and ideas about how to run her family; these sometimes conflict with those of her grown children.

  • Walter Lee (Brother)— Mrs. Younger’s eldest child. He wants to start his own liquor business, against his family’s wishes.

  • 0Beneatha—Walter Lee’s younger sister. She plans to go to medical school after college and has ideals many people find difficult to understand.

  • Ruth Younger—Walter Lee’s wife, who wants a tranquil home, but who experiences difficulty in communicating with her husband. Pregnant, she is considering having an abortion.

  • Travis Younger—Walter and Ruth’s son. Both his parents want him to aim for a life with more advantages than they have been able to provide.

Character s continued
Character’s Continued in the

  • Joseph Asagai—One of Beneatha’s gentleman friends; a fellow student at her school who is originally from Africa. In the midst of crisis, he shows Beneatha an unexpected side of his personality.

  • George Murchison—Another friend of Beneatha’s. Because he is rich, the family urges Beneatha to marry him, but she is not so sure this is what she wants.

  • Karl Lindner—A white man representing a new-neighbor committee, who wants to make a humiliating “deal” with the Younger family.

  • Bobo—One of the men Walter wants to start a liquor business with; he delivers some shocking news to the family.

  • Mrs. Johnson—Nosy neighbor of the Youngers, who cannot help hinting that there might be dire consequences if the family moves to the new neighborhood.

  • Walter Younger Senior—Deceased husband of Mrs. Younger. How the money from his insurance policy will be used is a source of conflict for the Younger family.