7 Reminders That Playwright Lorraine Hansberry Was A Radical And Fearless Black Woman

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Malaika Jabali Feb, 12, 2018

Whenever Black History Month rolls around, there is often a focus on the palatable histories of mainstream civil rights leaders. Whether they are depictions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that laud his 1963 I Have a Dream speech instead of his biting critiques of capitalism and militarism or stories about Rosa Parks that disregard her affiliation with the Black Power movement and militancy of the 1970s, our freedom fighters have been whitewashed and gentrified for popular consumption.

For this year’s celebration of Black History Month, ESSENCE is highlighting the lesser known details of groundbreaking Black leaders and creatives. Among them is acclaimed playwright Lorraine Hansberry, whose 1959 drama A Raisin in the Sun made her the first Black woman playwright on Broadway when she was only 28 years old.

While Hansberry’s landmark play is her most revered accomplishment, Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart makes it clear that her art was merely one extension of her radical commitments to the Black liberation struggle and economic justice for the masses of people oppressed by capitalist greed, racism, and imperialism.

A new PBS documentary on Lorraine’s life titled Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart reveals several ways that both her historic play — which was set in the South Side of Chicago and illustrated the struggles of a working-class Black family challenged by racism and a sudden financial windfall — and her own politics were rooted in an unconventional radicalism.

Here are just seven ways in which Hansberry’s legacy continues to be radical and essential for our liberation today.