Spanning from the debut of A Raisin in the Sun on Broadway in 1959 to her early death from cancer in January 1965, Lorraine Hansberry's short stint in the public eye changed the landscape of American theater. With A Raisin in the Sun, Hansberry (1930-1965) became both the first African American woman to have a play produced on Broadway and the first to win the prestigious New York Drama Critics' Circle Award. Resonating deeply with the aims of the civil rights movement, Raisin also ushered in a new era of Black representation on the stage and screen, displacing the cartoonish stereotypes that were the remnants of blackface minstrelsy in favor of complex three-dimensional portrayals of Black characters and Black life. Hansberry's public discourse in the aftermath of Raisin's success also disrupted mainstream critical tendencies to diminish the work of Black artists, helping pave the way for future work by Black playwrights.
Conversations with Lorraine Hansberry is the first volume to collect all of her substantive interviews in one place, including many radio and television interviews that have never before appeared in print. The twenty-one pieces collected here--ranging from just before the Broadway premiere of A Raisin in the Sun to less than six months before Hansberry's death--offer an incredible window into Hansberry's aesthetic and political thought. In these conversations, Hansberry explores many of the questions most often put to Black writers of the mid-twentieth century--including everything from her thinking about the relationship between art and protest, universality and particularity, and realism and naturalism, to her sense of the relationship between Black intellectuals and the Black masses, integration and Black Nationalism, and African American and Pan-African liberation. Taken together, these interviews reveal the insight, intensity, and eloquence that made Hansberry such a transformative figure in American letters.