Home History Bringing “A Raisin in the Sun” to Life: Visit the Lorraine Hansberry...

Bringing “A Raisin in the Sun” to Life: Visit the Lorraine Hansberry House + Mural in Chicago

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Lorraine Hansberry Mural
Lorraine Hansberry Mural; Photo Credit: Rhinehart Media Group

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There’s more to Chicago’s South Side than you hear on the news.

If you go near 51st and Calumet, you’ll notice a picture of a talented playwright smiling on the side of one of the buildings. It’s Chicago’s very own, Lorraine Hansberry.

Lorraine became the first Black woman to have a play produced on Broadway. Her play, A Raisin in the Sun, debuted in 1959. A few weeks later, she spoke to The New Yorker and shared how the play changed her life.

“I’d been writing an awful lot of plays—about three, I guess–and this happened to be one of them,” Lorraine told the New Yorker in 1959. “I now get twenty to thirty pieces of mail a day. Invitations to teas, invitations to lunches, invitation to dinners, invitations to write books, to adapt mystery stories for the movies, to adapt novels for Broadway musicals.”

Lorraine told The New Yorker that she wrote the play in approximately eight months.

“I’ve always assumed I had something to tell people. Now I think of myself as a playwright.”

In 1959, her play won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award.

Now, people all over Chicago and beyond get a taste of history when they watch Hansberry’s play or read the book.

But local artists like Chris Devins aren’t stopping there.

highlight the identity and distinctiveness of Bronzeville.

The Lorraine Hansberry outdoor mural, commissioned by Chris Devins, is one way community leaders are enriching the South Side of Chicago through representation in public art. This mural, along with the Nat King Cole and Louis Armstrong murals, is part of the Bronzeville Legends Mural Initiative, which started in 2013.

Lorraine Hansberry was born at Provident Hospital on May 19, 1930. Provident, the first Black-owned hospital in the country, was established in 1891 by Dr. Daniel Hale Williams.

Lorraine was the youngest of four children born to Carl A. Hansberry and Nannie Louise (born Perry). Her father was a successful banker and real estate broker. He founded Lake Street Bank in Chicago. Lorraine’s mother, Nannie, was a schoolteacher. Her parents contributed to organizations like NAACP and Urban League, which promoted the economic and social mobility of Blacks.

Although Lorraine grew up in a middle-class household, her family was still subject to racism. Restrictive housing covenants on Chicago’s South Side limited where Black people could live in the city.

However, Carl Hansberry wanted to buy property for his family in a white area. These areas had better resources, were cleaner, and more fairly priced.

In 1937, he found a way to purchase property in the Woodlawn community at 6140 S. Rhodes Avenue. But his family’s existence was met with resistance. A brick was thrown through the house window, almost hitting Lorraine’s head. The city’s segregation policies forced the family to take their case to the Supreme Court.

Lorraine Hansberry’s play, A Raisin in the Sun, was inspired by her experience on the South Side of Chicago.

Lorraine Hansberry Home
Lorraine Hansberry family home at 6140 S. Rhodes Ave; Photo Credit: Charlene Rhinehart, Rhinehart Media Group

On February 10, 2010, the Lorraine Hansberry family home at 6140 S. Rhodes Avenue was declared a historic landmark by the Chicago City Council. The home is a private residence and not open to the public. However, you can drive down the street where Lorraine Hansberry spent some of her childhood years.

Lorraine Landmark
Lorraine Hansberry Landmark

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