Lorraine Hansberry

Exposing Chicago’s South Side

Lorraine Hansberry was only 8 years old when a brick burst through the window of her South Side home, almost striking her. Angry white neighbors had thrown it to stop her family from desegregating Chicago’s Washington Park subdivision. A lawsuit was filed against the Hansberrys. The case concerned racially restrictive housing covenants, which barred Black Americans from leasing or purchasing land in the subdivision—a common tool of de facto racial segregation reinforced by banks and realtors. The dispute reached the U. S. Supreme Court in 1939, which affirmed the Hansberrys’ right to live in the neighborhood.

This struggle traumatized Lorraine and she later poured that trauma into the script of “A Raisin in the Sun.” Set entirely in a South Side apartment, it tells the story of a Chicago South Side family navigating the inherent racism of 20th-Century American life and the affect it has on the Black community. In 1959, it became the first play written by a Black woman to be staged on Broadway and later as a Hollywood film—exposing thousands of audience members to the reality of Black home life in urban America.


Object label:

The Hansberry Decision

The State of Illinois’s received copy of the U. S. Supreme Court’s decision regarding the Hansberry case.

Courtesy of the Illinois State Archives and Illinois Supreme Court

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