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Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun is a remarkable endeavor to articulate the author’s own traumatic childhood experience, as well as the broader trauma of African American people who have suffered so long because of slavery and its aftermath. This paper argues that Hansberry’s A Raisin addresses trauma and represents it through four powerful techniques: the choice of drama as a genre, the mode of genuine realism, intertextuality, and symbolism.
Lorraine Hansberry was placed under surveillance by the Federal Bureau of Investigation before A Raisin in the Sun’s Broadway debut in 1959. Totaling over a thousand pages of memos, reports, and letters of investigative analysis, Hansberry’s FBI file reveals that the bureau tracked her play for Communist sympathies but also, and more surprisingly, collected interviews in which she insisted that her occupation was not playwright but a housewife. This essay returns to A Raisin in the Sun, which has often been seen to uphold conservative gender ideologies of the Cold War era, to explore how Hansberry depicted radical counter-surveillance against the state through housewife characters. However, while historians have discussed how Black domestic workers employed in white homes became politically involved, little has been done to document how Black women countered surveillance to protect their families in their own homes.
The author examines the complexities of "home" in Lorraine Hansberry's play "A Raisin in the Sun" (1959). Matthews argues that the home purchased at the end of the play is more than a structural device used to catalyze the dénouement. Instead, the home's physical space illuminates the diverse psychological and ideological "homes" the Younger family seeks throughout the play, as it probes the racially charged politics of homeownership particular to post-World War II Southside Chicago; investigates the viability and vulnerability of the various "homes" occupied by the Younger family in their attempts to find and "express" themselves; and confronts national myths of "home" that associate citizenship with property ownership.
The article is written in the light of critical whiteness studies and the critical discourse regarding the political implications of literary works. It deals with Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun, which I position within the context of black American radical theatre. In particular, the article will show how Hansberry’s theatrical rhetoric challenges the public dynamics of racial separation and performs an ongoing role in destabilizing the assumptions about the legitimacy of the reproduction of colonial differences.
Although Raisin is typically considered to manifest a liberal, integrationist message or even dismissed as a ‘feel-good’ play of patriotic optimism, it is symbolic of several critical aspects of Hansberry’s communism, black nationalism, and feminism. In the context of Cold War-era domestic political repression and according to her commitment to socially engaged art, Hansberry authored a play that critiqued ‘money values,’ liberal notions of freedom, and black patriarchal aspirations. In addition, in thoughtful, measured language, she used the public platform the play's success afforded her to subtly elaborate her criticism of the black matriarchy theory increasingly promoted by venerable scholars and in the pages of the illustrious Ebony magazine. Ultimately, Hansberry advocated a radical vision of freedom that exceeded the bounds of political pragmatism and focused on the ideal of radical egalitarianism.
"Watching A Raisin in the Sun and Seeing Red" argues that, while historiographers of African American theatre have often discussed anti-Communism, Communism itself and the influence of the Communist Party U.S.A. as a positive force in black theatre history have largely been ignored. To explore the Communist influence on black theatre, the article describes specific ways in which Lorraine Hansberry's 1959 play is indebted to Communist political critiques. Following the FBI's surveillance of the play before it came to Broadway, "Watching A Raisin in the Sun and Seeing Red" also uses the FBI's own internal memos about the play's Communist content to reassess the play's political critique of American individualism, racism, sexism, and capitalism.
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