Staging Gendered Radicalism at the Height of the US Cold War: A Raisin in the Sun and Lorraine Hansberry's Vision of Freedom

TitleStaging Gendered Radicalism at the Height of the US Cold War: A Raisin in the Sun and Lorraine Hansberry's Vision of Freedom
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsChapman, Erin D.
JournalGender & History
Start Page446
Pagination446 - 467
Date Published08/2017

This article sets Lorraine Hansberry’s famous play A Raisin in the Sun alongside her 1959 speech ‘The Negro Writer and His Roots’ and a selection of her more prominent interviews and publications in between 1959 and 1961 to define her vision of a fundamental, feminist liberation for all people as the civil rights phase of the black freedom movement gained momentum. Although Raisin is typically considered to evince a liberal, integrationist message or even dismissed as a ‘feel-good’ play of patriotic optimism, it is emblematic of several key 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 success of the play 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.

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Short TitleGender & History
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