A Raisin in the Sun: This 1950s play is still important

By Ann Varner   

Last week in my Intro to Theater class, we read A Raisin in the Sun. Coincidentally, this week’s reading in my Black Studies class also mentioned this award-winning play.

Lorraine Hansberry wrote this drama, becoming the first African American woman to have a play produced on Broadway in 1959. Set in the 1950s, Hansberry’s work addresses the racial and gender issues that occurred then and still ring true today. Specifically, Hansberry chronicles a black family’s move to an all-white neighborhood and the harsh, racially charged reactions they face.

Though Hansberry’s play reveals societal progress, it might cause a modern Kansas City reader to think of the Troost divide, or J.C. Nichols’ restrictive covenants (which kept African Americans from buying homes in certain areas, similar to the plight illustrated in A Raisin in the Sun).

For these reasons and more, Hansberry and her play remain relevant. She was the first African American playwright and the youngest American to receive the New York Critics’ Circle Award.

I won’t spoil the play, but if you have not read it, check it out. If you’re more of a movie person, you can watch the older version that was produced in 1961, or the newer version that was produced in 2008. Even these two versions emphasize how important Hansberry’s play is, as it continues to be retold in new, exciting ways for different audiences. Enjoy!