Introduction to Lorraine Hansberry and To Sit Awhile
Lorraine Hansberry Initiative’s To Sit Awhile statue by Alison Saar, celebrating the renowned American playwright and civil rights activist Lorraine Hansberry, will be at the Pillsbury House + Theater from August 16, 2022 through September 15, 2022. There will also be companion contributions from local artists and community events.
To Sit Awhile is an installation that features five chairs representing different aspects of Lorraine Hansberry’s too-short life and under-recognized legacy as a playwright, journalist, and civil rights activist for Black, female and queer voices, inviting community members to “never be afraid to sit a while and think”.
This research guide pulls together resources related to Lorraine Hansberry's life and times, as well as contemporary discussions of her work and activism. The resources here are by no means ALL of the resources available on the many people, events, and topics connected to Lorraine Hansberry. They are just a sample to get you started on your own research journey.
Please note: Only a few resources on this page are available to the general public from off-campus. If you would like to use the databases, books, or other collections the University of Minnesota Libraries are open to the public and databases can be accessed by anyone from a library computer.
Also, check with your local public library for resources like these from Hennepin County Library.
Search terms and strategies
Whether you are searching in library databases, the library catalog, Google Scholar, or just plain Google, creating a good search query will help you to find relevant information.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
Library of Congress Subject Headings can be particularly helpful when search library catalogs, archives, and digital collections. You can pair a subject heading search with additional topics, events, and genres like biography, criticism, and history.
Each item on the bulleted list below links to the UMN library search by Library of Congress Subject Heading.
- Hansberry, Lorraine, 1930-1965
- Feminism and literature -- United States
- American literature -- African American authors
- African American women authors
- African American dramatists
- African American political activists
- African American civil rights workers
Creating a search query with keywords
While Library of Congress Subject Headings can be useful they can also be limiting. For most databases and even Google you can combine search terms to write a search query that databases understand. A good search query will give you a good selection of highly relevant results. Below are some tips for writing search queries using keywords and some examples.
- Use quotation marks to search words as a phrase, ex. "Lorraine Hansberry"
- Use the word AND to link together concepts, ex. "Lorraine Hansberry" AND "civil rights"
- Use the word OR to search for synonyms, ex. "civil rights" OR "social justice"
- Looking for Lorraine byCall Number: Print book - click link for locationISBN: 9780807064498Publication Date: 2018-09-18A revealing portrait of one of the most gifted and charismatic, yet least understood, Black artists and intellectuals of the twentieth century. Lorraine Hansberry, who died at thirty-four, was by all accounts a force of nature. Although best-known for her work A Raisin in the Sun, her short life was full of extraordinary experiences and achievements, and she had an unflinching commitment to social justice, which brought her under FBI surveillance when she was barely in her twenties.
- Lorraine Hansberry: the Life Behind a Raisin in the Sun byCall Number: Print book - click link for locationISBN: 9781250205537Publication Date: 2022-01-18Written when she was just twenty-eight, Lorraine Hansberry's landmark A Raisin in the Sun is listed by the National Theatre as one of the hundred most significant works of the twentieth century. Hansberry was the first Black woman to have a play performed on Broadway, and the first Black and youngest American playwright to win a New York Critics' Circle Award. Charles J. Shields's authoritative biography of one of the twentieth century's most admired playwrights examines the parts of Lorraine Hansberry's life that have escaped public knowledge: the influence of her upper-class background, her fight for peace and nuclear disarmament, the reason why she embraced Communism during the Cold War, and her dependence on her white husband--her best friend, critic, and promoter. Many of the identity issues about class, sexuality, and race that she struggled with are relevant and urgent today.
- Print book - To Be Young, Gifted, and Black; Lorraine Hansberry in Her Own Words byCall Number: Print book - click link for locationISBN: 0139230033Publication Date: 1969-01-01"Originally conceived not in its present form, but as a work for the stage. I completed the first draft of the script ... the play was "postponed" and presently dropped. It was at this point that the idea for the present volume began to take shape. Work on the script had produced a form that seemed to lend itself with equal facility to the printed page, while going far beyond the inherent limitations of the stage. Work on the book and revisions of the script proceeded concurrently.
- Radical vision : a biography of Lorraine Hansberry byCall Number: E-bookISBN: 030025833XPublication Date: 2021In this biography of Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965), the author of A Raisin in the Sun, Soyica Diggs Colbert considers the playwright's life at the intersection of art and politics, with the theater operating as a "rehearsal room for [her] political and intellectual work."
Colbert argues that the success of Raisin overshadows Hansberry's other contributions, including the writer's innovative journalism and lesser known plays touching on controversial issues such as slavery, interracial communities, and black freedom movements. Colbert also details Hansberry's unique involvement in the black freedom struggles during the Cold War and the early civil rights movement, in order to paint a full portrait of her life and impact.
Drawing from Hansberry's papers, speeches, and interviews, this book presents its subject as both a playwright and a political activist. It also reveals a new perspective on the roles of black women in mid-twentieth-century political movements.
Lorraine and social justice
- The civil rights theatre movement in New York, 1939-1966 : staging freedom byCall Number: E-bookISBN: 3030121887Publication Date: 2019This book argues that African American theatre in the twentieth century represented a cultural front of the civil rights movement. Highlighting the frequently ignored decades of the 1940s and 1950s, Burrell documents a radical cohort of theatre artists who became critical players in the fight for civil rights both onstage and offstage, between the Popular Front and the Black Arts Movement periods. The Civil Rights Theatre Movement recovers knowledge of little-known groups like the Negro Playwrights Company and reconsiders Broadway hits including Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun, showing how theatre artists staged radically innovative performances that protested Jim Crow and U.S. imperialism amidst a repressive Cold War atmosphere. By conceiving of class and gender as intertwining aspects of racism, this book reveals how civil rights theatre artists challenged audiences to reimagine the fundamental character of American democracy.
- Liner Notes for the Revolution byCall Number: E-bookISBN: 9780674258808Publication Date: 2021-02-23Liner Notes for the Revolution offers a startling new perspective on Black women musicians from Bessie Smith to Beyoncé. Informed by the overlooked contributions of women who wrote about the blues, rock, and pop, Daphne A. Brooks argues that acclaimed entertainers have also been radical intellectuals, challenging the culture industry to catch up.
- What Truth Sounds Like byCall Number: Print book - click link for locationISBN: 9781250199416Publication Date: 2018-06-05The contributions of black queer folk to racial progress still cause a stir. BLM has been accused of harboring a covert queer agenda. The immigrant experience, like that of Kennedy - versus the racial experience of Baldwin - is a cudgel to excoriate black folk for lacking hustle and ingenuity. The questioning of whether folk who are interracially partnered can authentically communicate black interests persists. And we grapple still with the responsibility of black intellectuals and artists to bring about social change.
- Still Mad byCall Number: Print book - click link for locationISBN: 9780393651713Publication Date: 2021-08-17Forty years after their first groundbreaking work of feminist literary theory, The Madwoman in the Attic, award-winning collaborators Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar map the literary history of feminism's second wave. From its stirrings in the midcentury-when Sylvia Plath, Betty Friedan, and Joan Didion found their voices and Diane di Prima, Lorraine Hansberry, and Audre Lorde discovered community in rebellion-to a resurgence in the new millennium in the writings of Alison Bechdel, Claudia Rankine, and N. K. Jemisin, Gilbert and Gubar trace the evolution of feminist literature. They offer lucid, compassionate, and piercing readings of major works by these writers and others, including Adrienne Rich, Ursula K. Le Guin, Maxine Hong Kingston, Susan Sontag, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Toni Morrison. Activists and theorists like Nina Simone, Gloria Steinem, Andrea Dworkin, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, and Judith Butler also populate these pages as Gilbert and Gubar examine the overlapping terrain of literature and politics in a comprehensive portrait of an expanding movement. As Gilbert and Gubar chart feminist gains-including creative new forms of protests and changing attitudes toward gender and sexuality-they show how the legacies of second wave feminists, and the misogynistic culture they fought, extend to the present. In doing so, they celebrate the diversity and urgency of women who have turned passionate rage into powerful writing.
Written by Lorraine Hansberry
- A raisin in the sun byCall Number: E-bookISBN: 0307807444Publication Date: 1994When it was first produced in 1959, A Raisin in the Sun was awarded the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for that season and hailed as a watershed in American drama. A pioneering work by an African-American playwright, the play was a radically new representation of black life. "A play that changed American theater forever."
"'Never before, the entire history of the American theater, has so much of the truth of black people's lives been seen on the stage, ' observed James Baldwin shortly before A Raisin in the Sun opened on Broadway in 1959. Indeed Lorraine Hansberry's award-winning drama about the hopes and aspirations of a struggling, working-class family living on the South Side of Chicago connected profoundly with the psyche of black America--and changed American theater forever. The play's title comes from a line in Langston Hughes's poem 'Harlem, ' which warns that a dream deferred might 'dry up/like a raisin in the sun.'
- Les Blancs: the Collected Last Plays byCall Number: Print book - click link for locationISBN: 0679755322Publication Date: 1994-12-13Here are Lorraine Hansberry's last three plays--Les Blancs, The Drinking Gourd, and What Use Are Flowers?--representing the capstone of her achievement. Includes a new preface by Jewell Gresham Nemiroff and a revised introduction by Margaret B. Wilkerson.
- Lorraine Hansberry's The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window byCall Number: Print book - click link for locationISBN: 0573615411Publication Date: 1986-01-01This is the probing, hilarious and provocative story of Sidney, a disenchanted Greenwich Village intellectual, his wife Iris, an aspiring actress, and their colorful circle of friends and relations. Set against the shenanigans of a stormy political campaign, the play follows its characters in their unorthodox quests for meaningful lives in an age of corruption, alienation and cynicism. With compassion, humor and poignancy, the author examines questions concerning the fragility of love, morality and ethics, interracial relationships, drugs, rebellion, conformity and especially withdrawal from or commitment to the world.
Films and video
- Kanopy StreamingWatch films related to Lorraine Hansberry and social justice. Search for these titles once you log in, "Sighted Eyes | Feeling Heart" or "I Am Not Your Negro."
- Academic Video Online This link opens in a new windowWatch a performance of "To Be Young, Gifted, and Black." Search for "Lorraine Hansberry" to find more videos related to her work and life.
- Drama Online: National Theatre Collections 1 & 2Watch a performance of "Les Blancs."
- History MakersHistory Makers is the largest African American oral video history archive in the world.
Journal article databases
- Project MuseSearch for full-text journals in literary theory, classics, history and cultural studies, philosophy, film, theater and performing arts, political science, and mathematics.
- JSTORFind full text articles in academic journals or books on the arts, humanities, social sciences, and sciences. JSTOR provides articles from the journal's first issue. In some cases the most recent 2-5 years may not be available. View this tutorial to learn how to go from a general idea to a very precise set of results of journal articles and scholarly materials.
- International Bibliography of Theatre and DanceSearch dance and theater arts journals on topics such as performing arts, ballet, drama, opera, film, and more.
- LGBTQ+ SourceLGBTQ+ Source contains indexing, abstracts, amd select full text for LGBTQ+ specific core periodicals. Books, newsletters, case studies, dissertations, and core primary sources are also represented. LGBTQ+ Source content is largely unique from other databases, and it includes indexing from its own LGBTQ+ focused thesaurus.
- Freedom MagazineDigitized and made available by NYU Libraries, Freedom, was a newspaper founded in Harlem, New York by activists Paul Robeson and Louis Burnham during the Cold War and McCarthy eras. It openly challenged racism, imperialism, colonialism, and political repression and advocated for civil rights, labor rights and world peace. Its writers and contributors included W.E.B. Du Bois, Alice Childress and Lorraine Hansberry.
- The LadderDigitized and made available through the Internet Archive, The Ladder, was the first nationally distributed lesbian publication in the U.S. Lorraine Hansberry had several letters published in it starting in 1957.
- New York Public Library Digital CollectionsPhotographs and other materials related to Lorraine Hansberry and her work.
Archival and special collections at UMN
- Givens Collection of African American LiteratureThe Givens Collection consists of over 10,000 books, magazines, and pamphlets by or about African Americans. Included are novels, poetry, plays, short stories, essays, literary criticism, periodicals, and biographies that span nearly 250 years of American culture, with particular strength in the areas of the Harlem Renaissance and the Black Arts Movement.
- Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender StudiesThe Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies includes published materials, organizational records, and personal papers providing insights into the GLBT experience, and is the home of the Tretter Transgender Oral History Project.