Lorraine Hansberry speaking to an audience

    Women and Adversity:
Lorraine Hansberry, Lesbian
    Civil Rights Activist

 My second post for Pride Month is another Chicagoan, playwright and civil rights activist Lorraine Hansberry. Her most popular play is 1959’s A Raisin in the Sun,  about racial discrimination against African Americans in Chicago. She garnered several firsts with the play:

  • First Black woman to have a Broadway show produced
  • First Black playwright to receive the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best American Play
  • Youngest American to receive the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best American Play
  • First Black American to win the Drama Desk Award

Hansberry spoke out about racial discrimination and associated with Malcolm X, Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois and others. In 1953 she married writer-activist Robert Nemiroff, who was Jewish. The couple separated in 1957 and divorced in 1962, although they remained friends. After she moved to Waverly Place in Manhattan, she began a relationship with Dorothy Secules, a white woman who lived in the building. Hansberry didn’t officially declare she was a lesbian, but she was known to have had several relationships, although she remained with Secules to her death. In 2014 her estate revealed diaries in which she revealed she was a lesbian.


          1930  – Born May 19 in Chicago, the youngest of four children. Her father was a real estate broker, and her
                        mother was a teacher.
          1938  – Her family moved to a white neighborhood. Neighbors protested, some violently.
          1940  – The Supreme Court ruled the Hansberry family could stay in the white neighborhood
          1948-50 – Attended University of Wisconsin in Madison
          1950-53  –  Moved to New York and was a writer and editor for the Black newspaper Freedom
          1953-56 –  Waitress and cashier and spent time writing
          1957 –  Contributed letters as L.H. to The Ladder about feminism and homophobia, exposing her lesbianism
          1960 –  Bought a building on Waverly Place in Manhattan with the proceeds from A Raisin in the Sun
          1963 –  Active in the civil rights movement            

          Hansberry died of pancreatic cancer January 12, 1965 at the age of 34.

More Information:

My ebooks available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com:
Honoring 23 Black Women, Recognizing 23 Notable Mothers, Saluting 23 Faithful Suffragists




Article By: Jo Ann Mathews

I published three ebooks in 2020: Women and Adversity, Honoring 23 Black Women; Women and Adversity, Recognizing 23 Notable Mothers; and Women and Adversity, Saluting 23 Faithful Suffragists to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. These books are meant to be study guides for all students from grade school through college to help in choosing topics for assignments and to learn more about these noteworthy women. Go to amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and goodreads.com to learn more.

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