From Riots to Renaissance: Hansberry's Victory

To view this site, you need to have Flash Player 9.0.115 or later installed. Click here to get the latest Flash player.

Chicago native and author Lorraine Hansberry drew on childhood experiences to write her acclaimed novel-turned-play A Raisin in the Sun, in which a black family faces discrimination after buying a home in an all-white neighborhood.

Hansberry was nearly eight years old when her father, Carl Hansberry, decided to purchase a three-flat at 6140 S. Rhodes in the white neighborhood of Woodlawn, and challenge the restrictive housing covenant that kept blacks from renting, leasing, or buying property in the community. Shortly after moving in, the Hansberrys were evicted based on the covenant. Mr. Hansberry then waged a three-year legal battle for the right to live in his home. The case, Hansberry vs. Lee, resulted in a 1940 Supreme Court decision that helped to end racially discriminatory housing covenants across the city of Chicago.

Recalling the times she and her siblings would go to eat at a "whites-only" restaurant, Ms. Hansberry said, "Sometimes you were shaken a bit, but you did it because you knew your dad was going to come back you up." Her play A Raisin in the Sun has the distinction of being the first drama written by a black woman to be produced on Broadway.

The Chicago City Council designated the Hansberry family home a landmark on February 10, 2010 in recognition of Ms. Hansberry's contribution to the Black Renaissance Literary Movement of the 20th Century.