Historical Context of A Raisin in the Sun


  • Lorraine Vivian Hansberry is born in Chicago on May 19, the daughter of a prominent real estate broker and the niece of a Howard University professor of African history.


  • The Hansberry family lives at 5330 S. Calumet Avenue on the South Side of Chicago.


  • Hansberry begins school at Betsy Ross Elementary at 61st Street and Wabash Avenue.


  • The Hansberry family moves to 6140 Rhodes Avenue, in an all-white neighborhood near the University of Chicago. Hostile residents attack their home. A state judge rules that the Hansberrys have to move. They appeal to the Supreme Court.


  • The Hansberrys and the NAACP win the U.S. Supreme Court Case Hansberry v. Lee.
  • Richard Wright publishes Native Son.


  • The United States enters World War II.


  • Hansberry enters Englewood High School at 6201 S. Stewart Avenue and wins a writing award for a short story about football during her freshman year.


  • Her father dies of a cerebral hemorrhage in Mexico, where he had planned to relocate his family to escape U.S. racism.


  • Jackie Robinson joins the Brooklyn Dodgers and becomes first African American to play major league baseball in the 20th century.


  • Hansberry graduates from Englewood High School and enters University of Wisconsin in Madison.
  • President Truman ends racial segregation in the U.S. armed forces.


  • Hansberry studies art in Mexico.


  • Hansberry leaves the University of Wisconsin in February and studies at Roosevelt University in Chicago during the summer. She moves to New York in the fall.
  • Gwendolyn Brooks is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Annie Allen.


  • Hansberry becomes the youngest staff member of Freedom, published by Paul Robeson.
  • She meets Robert Nemiroff at a demonstration against the exclusion of black athletes at New York University.


  • Hansberry attends International Peace Congress in Montevideo, Uruguay on behalf of Paul Robeson, who was forbidden to leave the U.S. by the State Department.


  • Hansberry marries Nemiroff in June and settles in Greenwich Village.


  • Hansberry takes courses in African history from Dr. W.E.B. DuBois at Jefferson School of Social Science in New York. The U.S. Supreme Court finds segregated schools unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education.


  • Rosa Parks is arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger, sparking a bus boycott.


  • Nemiroff’s song “Cindy, Oh Cindy” becomes a hit, enabling Hansberry to write full time.


  • Hansberry finishes A Raisin in the Sun. Philip Rose raises funds to produce the play.


  • A Raisin in the Sun, directed by Lloyd Richards and starring Sidney Poitier, opens on Broadway, wins the New York Drama Critics Circle Award and runs for 530 performances.


  • Hansberry writes two screenplays of A Raisin in the Sun, both of which are rejected by Columbia Pictures; her third, least controversial screenplay is accepted.
  • Students hold “sit-ins” in Greensboro, N.C.


  • Movie version of A Raisin in the Sun premieres in Chicago. The film wins a special Cannes Film Festival Award.


  • Hansberry and Nemiroff buy house in Croton-on-Hudson, New York.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court orders University of Mississippi to admit James Meredith.


  • Hansberry becomes involved in the civil rights movement and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and confronts Attorney General Robert Kennedy on the administration’s efforts against racism.
  • Hansberry is diagnosed with cancer.
  • Medgar Evers is killed in Jackson, Miss.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. gives his “I Have a Dream” speech.
  • President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas.


  • Hansberry and Nemiroff divorce.


  • Hansberry dies on January 12, the same day that her second Broadway play, The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window, closes.


  • The two-year anniversary of Hansberry’s death is commemorated with a seven-hour radio documentary called Lorraine Hansberry in Her Own Words, produced by Nemiroff with recorded performances by 61 of America’s greatest actors.


  • Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated.


  • To Be Young, Gifted and Black opens off-Broadway, runs for 380 performances and is published as a book.


  • Raisin, musical adaptation of A Raisin in the Sun produced and written by Nemiroff and Charlotte Zaltzberg, opens on Broadway, wins Tony Award as best musical and runs for 874 performances.


  • A Raisin in the Sun, starring Danny Glover and Esther Rolle, is directed by Bill Duke for American Playhouse/PBS television.


  • Nemiroff dies.


  • A Raisin in the Sun: The Unfilmed Original Screenplay, edited by Nemiroff, is published.


  • Kappel, Lawrence, ed. Readings on A Raisin in the Sun. Greenhaven Press, 2001.
  • McKissack, Patricia C. and Fredrick L. Young, Black and Determined: A Biography of Lorraine Hansberry. Holiday House, 1998.

Content last updated: April 30, 2003

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