A Raisin in the Sun is a play by Lorraine Hansberry that debuted on Broadway in 1959. The title comes from the poem "Harlem" (also known as "A Dream Deferred") by Langston Hughes. The story tells of a black family's experiences in "Clybourne Park", a fictionalized version of the Washington Park Subdivision of Chicago's Woodlawn neighborhood, as they attempt to "better" themselves with an insurance payout following the death of the father. The New York Drama Critics' Circle named it the best play of 1959.
|A Raisin in the Sun|
First-edition publication (Random House 1959)
|Written by||Lorraine Vivian Hansberry|
|Date premiered||March 11, 1959|
|Place premiered||Ethel Barrymore Theatre|
|Setting||South Side, Chicago|
At the beginning of the play, Walter and Beneatha's father has recently died, and Mama (Lena) is waiting for a life insurance check for $10,000. Walter has a sense of entitlement to the money, but Mama has religious objections to alcohol and Beneatha has to remind him it is Mama's call how to spend it. Eventually, Mama puts some of the money down on a new house, choosing an all-white neighborhood over a black one for the practical reason that it happens to be much cheaper. Later she relents and gives the rest of the money to Walter to invest with the provision that he reserve $3,000 for Beneatha's education. Walter passes the money on to Willy's naive sidekick Bobo, who gives it to Willy, who absconds with it, depriving Walter and Beneatha of their dreams, though not the Youngers of their new home. Meanwhile, Karl Lindner, a white representative of the neighborhood they plan to move to, makes a generous offer to buy them out. He wishes to avoid neighborhood tensions over the interracial population, which to the three women's horror Walter prepares to accept as a solution to their financial setback. Lena says that while money was something they try to work for, they should never take it if it was a person's way of telling them they weren't fit to walk the same earth as they.
Meanwhile, Beneatha's character and direction in life are being defined for us by two different men: Beneatha's wealthy and educated boyfriend George Murchison, and Joseph Asagai. Neither man is actively involved in the Youngers' financial ups and downs. George represents the "fully assimilated black man" who denies his African heritage with a "smarter than thou" attitude, which Beneatha finds disgusting, while dismissively mocking Walter's lack of money and education. Joseph patiently teaches Beneatha about her African heritage; he gives her thoughtfully useful gifts from Africa while pointing out she is unwittingly assimilating herself into white ways. She straightens her hair, for example, which he characterizes as "mutilation."
When Beneatha becomes distraught at the loss of the money, she is upbraided by Joseph for her materialism. She eventually accepts his point of view that things will get better with a lot of effort, along with his proposal of marriage and his invitation to move with him to Nigeria to practice medicine.
Walter is oblivious to the stark contrast between George and Joseph: his pursuit of wealth can be attained only by liberating himself from Joseph's culture, to which he attributes his poverty, and by rising to George's level, wherein he sees his salvation. Walter redeems himself and black pride at the end by changing his mind and not accepting the buyout offer, stating that the family is proud of who they are and will try to be good neighbors. The play closes with the family leaving for their new home but uncertain future.
The character Mrs. Johnson and a few scenes were cut from the Broadway performance and in reproductions due to time constraints. Mrs. Johnson is the Younger family's nosy and loud neighbor. She cannot understand how the family can consider moving to a white neighborhood and jokes that she will probably read in the newspaper in a month that they have been killed in a bombing. Her lines are employed as comic relief, but Hansberry also uses this scene to mock those who are too scared to stand up for their rights. In the introduction by Robert B. Nemiroff, he writes that the scene is included in print because it draws attention away from a seemingly happy ending to a more violent reality inspired by Hansberry's own experiences.
Experiences in this play echo a lawsuit (Hansberry v. Lee, 311 U.S. 32 (1940)), to which the playwright Lorraine Hansberry's family was a party when they fought to have their day in court because a previous class action about racially motivated restrictive covenants (Burke v. Kleiman, 277 Ill. App. 519 (1934)) had been similar to their situation. This case was heard prior to the passage of the Fair Housing Act (Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968), which prohibited discrimination in housing and created the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. The Hansberry won their right to be heard as a matter of due process of law in relation to the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Supreme Court held that the Hansberry defendants were not bound by the Burke decision because the class of defendants in the respective cases had conflicting goals, and thus could not be considered to be the same class.
The plaintiff in the first action in 1934 was Olive Ida Burke, who brought the suit on behalf of a property owners' association to enforce racial restrictions. Her husband, James Burke, later sold a house to Carl Hansberry (Lorraine's father) when he changed his mind about the validity of the covenant. Mr. Burke's decision may have been motivated by the changing demographics of the neighborhood, but it was also influenced by the Depression. The demand for houses was so low among white buyers that Mr. Hansberry may have been the only prospective purchaser available.
Lorraine reflects upon the litigation in her book To Be Young, Gifted, and Black:
"Twenty-five years ago, [my father] spent a small personal fortune, his considerable talents, and many years of his life fighting, in association with NAACP attorneys, Chicago’s ‘restrictive covenants’ in one of this nation's ugliest ghettos. That fight also required our family to occupy disputed property in a hellishly hostile ‘white neighborhood’ in which literally howling mobs surrounded our house. ... My memories of this ‘correct’ way of fighting white supremacy in America include being spat at, cursed and pummeled in the daily trek to and from school. And I also remember my desperate and courageous mother, patrolling our household all night with a loaded German Luger (pistol), doggedly guarding her four children, while my father fought the respectable part of the battle in the Washington court."
The Hansberry house, a red-brick three-flat at 6140 S. Rhodes in Washington Park that they bought in 1937, was given landmark status by the Chicago City Council's Committee on Historical Landmarks Preservation in 2010.
With a cast in which all but one character is African-American, A Raisin in the Sun was considered a risky investment, and it took over a year for producer Philip Rose to raise enough money to launch it. There was disagreement with how it should be played, with focus on the mother or focus on the son. When the play hit New York, Poitier played it with the focus on the son and found not only his calling but also an audience enthralled.
After touring to positive reviews, the play premiered on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on March 11, 1959. It transferred to the Belasco Theatre on October 19, 1959, and closed on June 25, 1960, after 530 total performances. Directed by Lloyd Richards, the cast comprised:
Ossie Davis later took over as Walter Lee Younger, and Frances Williams as Lena Younger.
Waiting for the curtain to rise on opening night, Hansberry and producer Rose did not expect the play to be a success, for it had already received mixed reviews from a preview audience the night before. Though it won popular and critical acclaim, reviewers argued about whether the play was "universal" or particular to African-American experience. It was then produced on tour.
A Raisin in the Sun was the first play written by a black woman to be produced on Broadway, as well as the first with a black director, Mr. Richards.
Hansberry noted that her play introduced details of black life to the overwhelmingly white Broadway audiences, while director Richards observed that it was the first play to which large numbers of black people were drawn. Frank Rich, writing in The New York Times in 1983, stated that A Raisin in the Sun "changed American theater forever." In 2016, Claire Brennan wrote in The Guardian that "The power and craft of the writing make A Raisin in the Sun as moving today as it was then."
In 1960 A Raisin In The Sun was nominated for four Tony Awards:
Some five months after its Broadway opening, Hansberry's play appeared in London's West End, playing at the Adelphi Theatre from August 4, 1959. As on Broadway, the director was Lloyd Richards, and the cast was as follows:
The play was presented (as before) by Philip Rose and David J. Cogan, in association with the British impresario Jack Hylton.
In 1961, a film version of A Raisin in the Sun was released featuring its original Broadway cast of Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Claudia McNeil, Diana Sands, Ivan Dixon, Louis Gossett, Jr. and John Fiedler. Hansberry wrote the screenplay, and the film was directed by Daniel Petrie. It was released by Columbia Pictures and Ruby Dee won the National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress. Both Poitier and McNeil were nominated for Golden Globe Awards, and Petrie received a special "Gary Cooper Award" at the Cannes Film Festival.
A musical version of the play, Raisin, ran on Broadway from October 18, 1973, to December 7, 1975. The book of the musical, which stayed close to the play, was written by Hansberry's former husband, Robert Nemiroff. Music and lyrics were by Judd Woldin and Robert Brittan. The cast included Joe Morton (Walter Lee), Virginia Capers (Momma), Ernestine Jackson (Ruth), Debbie Allen (Beneatha) and Ralph Carter (Travis, the Youngers' young son). The show won the Tony Award for Best musical.
In 1989 the play was adapted into a TV film for PBS' American Playhouse series, starring Danny Glover (Walter Lee) and Esther Rolle (Mama), with Kim Yancey (Beneatha), Starletta DuPois (Ruth), and John Fiedler (Karl Lindner). This production received three Emmy Award nominations, but all were for technical categories. Bill Duke directed the production, while Chiz Schultz produced. This production was based on an off-Broadway revival produced by the Roundabout Theatre.
On 3 March 1996 the BBC broadcast a production of the play by director/producer Claire Grove, with the following cast:
The play won two 2004 Tony Awards: Best Actress in a Play (Phylicia Rashad) and Best Featured Actress in a Play (Audra McDonald), and was nominated for Best Revival of a Play and Best Featured Actress in a Play (Sanaa Lathan).
In 2008, Sean Combs, Phylicia Rashad and Audra McDonald starred in a television film directed by Kenny Leon. The film debuted at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and was broadcast by ABC on February 25, 2008. McDonald received an Emmy nomination for her portrayal of Ruth. According to Nielsen Media Research, the program was watched by 12.7 million viewers and ranked #9 in the ratings for the week ending March 2, 2008.
In 2010 Michael Buffong directed a widely acclaimed production at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, described by Dominic Cavendish in The Daily Telegraph as – “A brilliant play, brilliantly served.”. Michael Buffong, Ray Fearon and Jenny Jules all won MEN Awards. The cast were: –
A second revival ran on Broadway from April 3, 2014, to June 15, 2014, at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. The play won three 2014 Tony Awards: Best Revival of a Play, Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play (Sophie Okonedo) and Best Direction of a Play (Kenny Leon).
On 31 January 2016 the BBC broadcast a new production of the play by director/producer Pauline Harris. This version restores the character of Mrs Johnson and a number of scenes that were cut from the Broadway production and subsequent film, with the following cast:
The 2010 Bruce Norris play Clybourne Park depicts the white family that sold the house to the Youngers. The first act takes place just before the events of A Raisin in the Sun, involving the selling of the house to the African American family; the second act takes place 50 years later.
The 2013 play by Kwame Kwei-Armah entitled Beneatha's Place follows Beneatha after she leaves with Asagai to Nigeria and, instead of becoming a doctor, becomes the Dean of Social Sciences at a respected (unnamed) California university.
The 14th Annual Tony Awards took place at the Astor Hotel Grand Ballroom on April 24, 1960, and was broadcast on local television station WCBS-TV in New York City. The Master of Ceremonies was Eddie Albert.68th Tony Awards
The 68th Annual Tony Awards were held June 8, 2014, to recognize achievement in Broadway productions during the 2013–14 season. The ceremony was held at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, and was televised live on CBS. Hugh Jackman was the host, his fourth time hosting. The 15 musical Tony Awards went to seven different musicals, and six plays shared the 11 play Tony Awards.The nominations were announced on April 29, 2014 by Jonathan Groff and Lucy Liu. Audra McDonald won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play. In just her ninth Broadway engagement, McDonald established two records as the first actor to win six Tony Awards for acting and the first to win in all four categories, lead and featured in both a play and a musical. In its seventh Broadway incarnation, The Glass Menagerie won its first Tony Award (Lighting Design).Aladdin's win made it the fourth franchise to complete EGOT status.A Raisin in the Sun (1961 film)
A Raisin in the Sun is a 1961 drama film directed by Daniel Petrie and starring Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Claudia McNeil, Diana Sands, Roy Glenn, and Louis Gossett Jr. (in his film debut), and adapted from the 1959 play of the same name by Lorraine Hansberry. It follows a black family that wants a better life away from the city.
A Raisin in the Sun was released by Columbia Pictures on May 29, 1961. In 2005, the film was selected for preservation in the United States of America National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".A Raisin in the Sun (2008 film)
A Raisin in the Sun is a 2008 American made-for-television film directed by Kenny Leon and starring Sean Combs, Audra McDonald, Phylicia Rashad, and Sanaa Lathan reprising their roles from the 2004 revival which was also directed by Leon. The teleplay by Paris Qualles is based on the award-winning 1959 play of the same name by Lorraine Hansberry and is the second film adaptation of that play following the 1961 film that starred Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Claudia McNeil, and Diana Sands.
A Raisin in the Sun debuted at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and was broadcast by ABC on February 25, 2008. According to Nielsen Media Research, the program was watched by 12.7 million viewers and ranked #9 in the ratings for the week ending March 2, 2008.A Raisin in the Sun (disambiguation)
A Raisin in the Sun is a play by Lorraine Hansberry that debuted on Broadway in 1959.
A Raisin in the Sun may also refer to:
"A raisin in the sun", a line fragment from the 1951 poem suite Montage of a Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes
A Raisin in the Sun (1961 film), a theatrical film starring Sidney Poitier
Raisin (musical), a 1973 musical theater adaptation of the Lorraine Hansberry play
A Raisin in the Sun (2008 film), a television film starring Sean Combs and Phylicia RashadAnika Noni Rose
Anika Noni Rose (born September 6, 1972) is an American actress and singer known for her Tony Award-winning performance in the Broadway production of Caroline, or Change and her starring role as Lorrell Robinson in the 2006 film Dreamgirls. She also voiced Tiana, Disney's first African-American princess in Walt Disney Pictures' 2009 animated film The Princess and the Frog. In 2014, Rose played the role of Beneatha Younger in the Broadway revival of A Raisin in the Sun, for which she was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play. She was named a Disney Legend in 2011.Claudia McNeil
Claudia McNeil (August 13, 1917 – November 25, 1993) was an American actress known for premiering the role of matriarch Lena Younger in both the stage and screen productions of A Raisin in the Sun.
She later appeared in a 1981 production of the musical version of the play, Raisin presented by Equity Library Theater. She was twice nominated for a Tony Award, first for her onstage performance in A Raisin in the Sun (1959), and again for the play Tiger Tiger Burning Bright in 1962. She was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award and a BAFTA Award for the screen version of A Raisin in the Sun in 1961.Diahann Carroll
Diahann Carroll (; born Carol Diahann Johnson, July 17, 1935) is an American actress, singer and model. She rose to stardom in performances in some of the earliest major studio films to feature black casts, including Carmen Jones in 1954 and Porgy and Bess in 1959. In 1962, Carroll won a Tony Award for best actress, a first for a black woman, for her role in the Broadway musical No Strings.
Her 1968 debut in Julia, the first series on American television to star a black woman in a nonstereotypical role, was a milestone both in her career and the medium. In the 1980s she played the role of a mixed-race diva in the primetime soap opera Dynasty.
Carroll is the recipient of numerous stage and screen nominations and awards, including the Golden Globe Award for "Best Actress In A Television Series" in 1968. She received an Academy Award for Best Actress nomination for the 1974 film Claudine. A breast cancer survivor and activist, Carroll was scheduled to return to the Broadway stage in the 2014 revival of A Raisin in the Sun as Mama, but withdrew prior to opening citing the demands of the rehearsal and performance schedule.Diana Sands
Diana Sands (August 22, 1934 – September 21, 1973) was an American actress, perhaps most famous for her portrayal of Beneatha Younger, the sister of Sidney Poitier's character in the original stage and film versions of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun (1961). She also appeared in a number of dramatic television series in the 1960s and 1970s such as I Spy, as Davala Unawa in the 1967 The Fugitive episode "Dossier on a Diplomat", Dr. Harrison in the Outer Limits episode "The Mice", and Julia. Sands also starred in the 1963 film An Affair of the Skin as the narrator and photographer, Janice.Ethel Barrymore Theatre
The Ethel Barrymore Theatre is a Broadway theatre located at 243 West 47th Street in the Theater District of Midtown Manhattan, New York City. It is named for acclaimed actress Ethel Barrymore.Kenny Leon
Kenny Leon is an American director notable for his work on Broadway and in regional theater. Robert Simonson of Playbill described Leon as "arguably Broadway's leading African-American director." In 2014, he won the Tony Award for Best Director of a Play for A Raisin in the Sun.L. Scott Caldwell
L. Scott Caldwell (born Laverne Scott; April 17, 1950) is an American actress known for her role as Rose on Lost.Lorraine Hansberry
Lorraine Vivian Hansberry (May 19, 1930 – January 12, 1965) was an African-American playwright and writer.Hansberry was the first black female author to have a play performed on Broadway. Her best known work, the play A Raisin in the Sun, highlights the lives of Black Americans living under racial segregation in Chicago. Hansberry's family had struggled against segregation, challenging a restrictive covenant and eventually provoking the Supreme Court case Hansberry v. Lee. The title of the play was taken from the poem "Harlem" by Langston Hughes: "What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?"
At the young age of 29, she won the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award — making her the first African American dramatist, the fifth woman, and the youngest playwright to do so.After she moved to New York City, Hansberry worked at the Pan-Africanist newspaper Freedom, where she dealt with intellectuals such as Paul Robeson and W. E. B. Du Bois. Much of her work during this time concerned the African struggle for liberation and their impact on the world. Hansberry has been identified as a lesbian, and sexual freedom is an important topic in several of her works. She died of cancer at the age of 34. Hansberry inspired Nina Simone's song "To Be Young, Gifted and Black".Noma Dumezweni
Noma Dumezweni (born 28 July 1969) is an English actress. In 2006, she won an Olivier Award for her role in A Raisin in the Sun. She stars as Hermione Granger in the original West End and Broadway runs of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which garnered her a second Laurence Olivier Award and a Tony Award nomination.Philip Rose (theatrical producer)
Philip Rose (July 4, 1921 – May 31, 2011) was a Broadway theatrical producer of such productions as A Raisin in the Sun, The Owl and the Pussycat, Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?, Purlie, and Shenandoah. His work was particularly notable for its social insight and distinctive social conscience.Phylicia Rashad
Phylicia Rashād ( fih-LI-shə rə-SHAHD) (née Ayers-Allen; June 19, 1948) is an American actress, singer and stage director. She is known for her role as Clair Huxtable on the NBC sitcom The Cosby Show (1984–92), which earned her Emmy Award nominations in 1985 and 1986. She was dubbed "The Mother" of the black community at the 2010 NAACP Image Awards.
In 2004, Rashad became the first black actress to win the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play, which she won for her role in the revival of A Raisin in the Sun. Her other Broadway credits include Into the Woods (1988), Jelly's Last Jam (1993), Gem of the Ocean (2004), and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (2008). She won a NAACP Image Award when she reprised her A Raisin in the Sun role in the 2008 television adaptation. She has also appeared in the films For Colored Girls (2010), Good Deeds (2012), Creed (2015), and Creed II (2018).Raisin (musical)
Raisin is a musical theatre adaptation of the Lorraine Hansberry play A Raisin in the Sun, with songs by Judd Woldin and Robert Brittan, and a book by Robert Nemiroff (who was Hansberry's former husband) and Charlotte Zaltzberg.
The story concerns an African-American family in Chicago in 1951. The musical was nominated for nine Tony Awards, winning two, including Best Musical, and the Broadway production ran for 847 performances.Sanaa Lathan
Sanaa McCoy Lathan (born September 19, 1971) is an American actress. She has starred in many films, including The Best Man (1999) and its 2013 sequel, The Best Man Holiday. Her other film credits include Love & Basketball (2000), Brown Sugar (2002), Alien vs. Predator (2004), The Family That Preys (2008), Contagion (2011), and Now You See Me 2 (2016).
On stage, Lathan was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance on Broadway in A Raisin in the Sun and starred in 2010 in the all-black performance of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Novello Theatre in London. As a voice actress, from 2009 to 2013, she voiced Donna Tubbs in The Cleveland Show and has voiced that character in all concurrent and subsequent Family Guy appearances.Sophie Okonedo
Sophie Okonedo (born 11 August 1968) is an English film, theatre and television actress. She began her film career in the British coming-of-age drama Young Soul Rebels (1991) before appearing in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995) and Stephen Frears's Dirty Pretty Things (2002).
Okonedo's breakthrough performance came in 2004, when she co-starred in the film Hotel Rwanda as Tatiana Rusesabagina, the wife of Rwandan hotel manager and humanitarian Paul Rusesabagina, portrayed by American actor Don Cheadle. For this role, she became the third black Briton, and second black female Briton to receive an nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress at the 77th Academy Awards in 2005. She later received a Golden Globe Award nomination for the miniseries Tsunami: The Aftermath (2006) and BAFTA TV Award nominations for the drama series Criminal Justice (2009) and the television film Mrs. Mandela (2010). Her other film roles include Æon Flux (2005), Skin (2008), The Secret Life of Bees (2008), and Christopher Robin (2018).
On stage, Okonedo starred as Cressida in the 1999 Royal National Theatre production of Troilus and Cressida. She made her Broadway debut in the 2014 revival of A Raisin in the Sun and received a Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play and won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her portrayal of Ruth Younger.
Okonedo was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2010 Birthday Honours, and Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2019 New Year Honours.
Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun