Lorraine Vivian Hansberry was born May 19, 1930 in Chicago, Illinois the youngest by seven years, of four children. Her father, Carl A. Hansberry, is a successful real estate broker, and a civil right activist. Her mother, Nannie Perry, is a schoolteacher who entered politics and became a ward committee woman. When Lorraine was eight, her parents moved to a white neighborhood where the experiences of discrimination led to a civil rights suit that they won. The granddaughter of a freed slave and deeply committed to the Black struggle for equality and human rights, Lorraine Hansberry became a spokesperson for black Americans.
Her writings reflect her fight for black civil rights, which is reflected by her views against racism and sexual and statutory discrimination. A Raisin in the Sun was first produced in 1959. The play personified many of the issues which were to divide American culture during the decade of the 1960s. Lorraine Hansberry, the playwright, was an unknown dramatist until she achieved unprecedented success when her play became a Broadway sensation.
Not only were successful women playwrights rare at the time, but successful young black women playwrights were virtually unheard of.
Within its context, the success of A Raisin in the Sun is particularly stunning. She used plot characters and setting to embody the struggles Blacks had to overcome while facing discrimination and an underlying desire to succeed beyond conception. The play occurs during the late 1950s, a time when many Americans were prosperous and when some racial questions were beginning to be raised, but before the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs is an excellent theory to analyze A Raisin in the Sun since needs and wants are the basics to human survival.
Its core is that of humankind equality which crosses geographic, racial, gender, social, ethnic and religious backgrounds. The situational setting of A Raisin in the Sun makes Maslow’s theory of Hierarchy of Needs an excellent way to analyze the characters, and also the needs that African Americans were deprived of during Jim Crowism. The title A Raisin in the Sun refers to a poem whose first line begins, “What happens to a dream deferred”. Of course, the answer is that it withers on the vine and becomes a raisin.
So, understanding that, then, it is easy to see how this would apply to the Younger family as their dreams are put on hold by the greed and lack of consideration from one among them. The clear primary theme of A Raisin in the Sun has to do with race and racism but subsequently represents the state of mind and desire for better in the African American culture. When the play opens, the Younger family has no clear leader. Its power structure is complicated, especially in terms of American norms.
The play occurs in the Youngers’ apartment, which Hansberry describes in detail: “Its furnishings are typical and undistinguished and then- primary feature now is that they have clearly had to accommodate the living of too many people for too many years. ” The furnishings, that is, come… The Youngers live in a segregated neighborhood in a city that remains one of the most segregated in the United States. Virtually every act they perform is affected by their race; Ruth is employed as a domestic servant and Walter as chauffeurs in part because they are black they are the servants, that is, of white people.
They are limited to their poorly maintained apartment in part because they have low-paying jobs but also because absentee landlords often do not maintain their property. Travis chases a rat, while Beneatha and Mama attempt to eradicate cockroaches, both activities which would not occur in wealthier neighborhoods. The most significant scene which openly portrays racism, however, is the visit with Karl Lindner. Although he does not identify himself as racist, he symbolizes a state of mind of whites that excluded blacks from accomplishing a higher social class and environment.