MARCH 11, 1959
A Raisin in the Sun, the first Broadway play written by a Black woman, debuted at the Ethel Barrymore Theater. Lorraine Hansberry drew inspiration for her play from a Langston Hughes’ poem: “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?”
Hansberry also drew on her past, her family fighting Chicago’s restrictive covenants in court and finally getting their day in court. The Broadway drama starred Sidney Poitier, Claudia McNeal and Ruby Dee. It was also the first Broadway play of the modern era with a Black director, Lloyd Richards.
The New York Drama Critics’ Circle named it the best play, and it was adapted into a 1961 film, which starred the original Broadway cast. Hansberry wrote the screenplay, and Dee won Best Supporting Actress from the National Board of Review.
In 1973, the drama became a Broadway musical, Raisin, and it won the Tony for Best Musical. In 2010, Hansberry’s family home became a historic landmark, and the play continues to be performed on Broadway and across the nation.