WHEN Lorraine Hansberry burst onto the national scene with her play A Raisin in the Sun in 1959, one popular image of her can be summed up by journalist Mike Wallace’s introduction to the playwright in an interview. The first African-American woman to have a play produced on Broadway, and the first to win the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, was described as “a girl who had dabbled in writing [who]made a brash announcement to her husband. She was going to sit down and write an honest and accurate drama about Negroes.”
The idea that Hansberry came out of nowhere to become an overnight success with A Raisin in the Sun is one of the misperceptions that’s dispelled by two new books on Hansberry, which show her to be a passionate and dedicated writer, artist, thinker, and activist.
Reginald Harris, a writer and poet based in Brooklyn, is the author ofTen Tongues (2003) andAutogeography (2013).