What is relevant here is that I had never in my life seen so many black people in the theater. And the reason was that never before, in the entire history of the American theater, had so much of the truth of black people’s lives been seen on the stage. Black people ignored the theater because the theater had always ignored them.
KeywordsBlack Woman Black People Moral Imperative Racist Society Moral Strength
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- 3.James Baldwin, “Introduction,” in To Be Young, Gifted and Black, ed. Robert Nemiroff (New York: Signet, 1969), pp. xii–xiii.Google Scholar
- 8.Ossie Davis, “The Significance of Lorraine Hansberry,” Freedomways 5:3 (1965): 399, 400.Google Scholar
- 9.Quoted in Steven R. Carter, Hansberry’s Drama: Commitment amid Complexity (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1991), pp. 52–53.Google Scholar
- 11.Doris E. Abramson, Negro Playwrights in the American Theatre 1925–1959 (New York and London: Columbia University Press, 1969), p. 254. Less generous in his assessment of characters and play is Harold Cruse, who dubbed Raisin a “glorified soap opera” in which Hansberry forcibly ascribes middle-class values to a lower-working-class family to make them acceptable as integrationists. See The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual (New York: Morrow, 1967), pp. 267–284.Google Scholar
- 17.Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun (New York: Signet, 1966), p. 27, my emphasis. Notice that, although Hansberry emphasizes Mama Lena’s beauty as much as she does her strength (in the sentences quoted and those immediately following), Mama Lena’s beauty is never a factor in the play, while her physical and moral strength undergird most of the action.Google Scholar
- 22.In Raymond Andrews’ Rosiebelle Lee Wildcat Tennessee (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1980), the title character earns the appellation “the Momma” because of a comparable ability to meddle in everybody’s business even as she cares for and nurtures them.Google Scholar
- 24.Particularly informative in this context are Sidney Poitier’s comments on his discussions with Hansberry and Lloyd Richards about how the Walter Lee character should be played. Claudia McNeil was so strong as Mama, Poitier asserted, that unless the Walter Lee character were allowed to play directly against her, the play ran the risk of making “a negative comment on the black male”—presumably because he would appear weak. Poitier argued—and lost—that the play should unfold from Walter Lee’s point of view, not Mamas. See Poitier, This Life (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1980), Chapter 17, “A Raisin in the Sun.”Google Scholar