The Revolutionary Artist & Civil Rights Activist Pop Culture Forgot AboutBreaking News
tags: civil rights, theatre, Lorraine Hansberry
I think about Lorraine Hansberry a lot. She is the first Black woman to have a show produced on Broadway (1959’s A Raisin in the Sun) and one of the most brilliant Black lesbian feminist authors in American history. I think about her whenever someone says the words “young, gifted, and Black,” because it’s a phrase she coined; her friend Nina Simone made it prolific. When Chadwick Boseman declared the cast of Black Panther as “young, gifted, and Black” at the Screen Actors Guild awards, I thought of Lorraine Hansberry telling a class of students in 1965 that “there is no more dynamic a combination” that a person can be. I think about Hansberry every time a clip of her dear friend and colleague James Baldwin goes viral. Hansberry was one of his greatest influences.
I don’t think Lorraine Hansberry’s legacy and accomplishments are memorialized enough — especially in comparison to her friends Simone and Baldwin. When so many incredible Black American feminists were quoted in Beyoncé’s Homecoming (the greatest concert film of all time), but Hansberry wasn’t, I thought about her again. Pop culture seems to have forgotten about one of the most revolutionary artists of the civil rights movement.
Princeton professor Imani Perry has thought about Hansberry so much she wrote a book about the playwright called Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry. According to Perry, Hansberry was ahead of her time creatively and politically. "She was a feminist before the feminist movement,” Perry told NPR. “She was identified as a lesbian and thought about gay rights organizing before the gay rights movement. She was an anti-colonialist before all of the independences had been won in Africa and the Caribbean."
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