Black History Trailblazers of the 1950s: Lorraine Hansberry, The Playwright

In our ongoing celebration of Black History Month, we look back at some of the leaders, icons, and pop culture juggernauts that helped to bring diversity, equity, inclusion and representation to the forefront of the American landscape — like these men and women who left their indelible mark on the 1950s.

With her play A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry became the first-ever Black female author to write a play performed on Broadway. It was just one in several amazing achievements for the liberated wordsmith whose all too short life helped bring to light a number of once closeted subjects.

Born to a middle-class family living in Chicago in 1930, Lorraine Hansberry experienced both the good and the bad from an early age. Her father, Carl Augustus Hansberry, was a successful businessman. He founded Lake Street Bank, one of the first banks for Blacks in Chicago. He also ran a profitable real estate business. Because of his connections, Hansberry was able to interact with many prominent Black leaders throughout her childhood — folks like famed sociology professor W.E.B. DuBois, poet Langston Hughes, actor and political activist Paul Robeson, musician Duke Ellington and Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens.

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