You are here

In Her Own Words

As one raised in a subculture experience (I am a Negro) where those within were and are forever lecturing to their fellows about how to appear acceptable to the dominant social groups, I know something about the shallowness of such a view in and of itself…what ought to be clear is that one is oppressed or discriminated against because one is ‘different’, not ‘wrong’ or ‘bad.’ This is perhaps the bitterest of the entire pill.

Lorraine Hansberry, letter to The Ladder, Vol. 1 No. 8 (May, 1957). 

The supreme test of technical skill and creative imagination is the depth of art it requires to render the infinite varieties of the human spirit—which invariably hangs between despair and joy. 

To Be Young Gifted and Black: Lorraine Hansberry in Her Own Words. Adapted by Robert Nemiroff with an introduction by James Baldwin, p.xvii. NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1969. 

I'm glad as heck that you exist. You are obviously serious people and I feel that women, without wishing to foster any strict separatist notions, homo or hetero, indeed have a need for their own publications and organizations. Our problems, our experiences as women are profoundly unique as compared to the other half of the human race. Women, like other oppressed groups of one kind or another, have particularly had to pay a price for the intellectual impoverishment that the second class status imposed on us for centuries created and sustained. Thus, I feel that The Ladder is a fine, elementary step in a rewarding direction.

Lorraine Hansberry. Letter, signed LHN, originally published in The Ladder Vol. 1 No. 8 (May 1957): 26, 28. Reprinted in The Ladder Vol. I and II. Introduction by Barbara Grier (Gene Damon, pseudonym). NY: Arno Press, 1975.

Children see things very well sometimes—and idealists even better.

Asagai to Beneatha, Act III. Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun. With an introduction by Robert Nemiroff. NY: Vintage, 2004.

The thing that makes you exceptional, if you are at all, is inevitably that which must also make you lonely. 

Lorraine Hansberry writing in her journal, May 1, 1962. In To Be Young Gifted and Black: Lorraine Hansberry in Her Own Words. Adapted by Robert Nemiroff, with an introduction by James Baldwin, p.137. NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1969.

Considering Mattachine, Bilitis, ONE, all seem to be cropping up on the West Coast rather than here [on the East Coast] where a vigorous and active gay set almost bump one another off the streets—what is it in the air out there? Pioneers still? Or a tougher circumstance which inspires battle?

Lorraine Hansberry.. Letter, signed LHN, originally published in The Ladder Vol. 1 No. 8 (May 1957): 26, 28. Reprinted in The Ladder Vol. I and II. Introduction by Barbara Grier (Gene Damon, pseudonym). NY: Arno Press, 1975. 

[T]here is only one large circle that we march in, around and around, each of us with our own little picture—in front of us—our own little mirage that we think is the future.

Beneatha to Asagai, Scene III. Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun. With an introduction by Robert Nemiroff. NY: Vintage, 2004.

Write if you will: but write about the world as it is and as you think it ought to be and must be—if there is to be a world. Write about all the things that men have written about since the beginning of writing and talking—but write to a point. Work hard at it, care about it. Write about our people: tell their story. You have something glorious to draw on begging for attention. Don’t pass it up. You have something glorious to draw on begging for attention. Don’t pass it up. Use it. Good luck to you. The Nation needs your gifts. 

Lorraine Hansberry speech, “To Be Young, Gifted, and Black,” given to Readers Digest/United Negro College Fund creative writing contest winners, NYC, May 1, 1964. 

I think it is about time that equipped women began to take on some of the ethical questions which a male-dominated culture has produced and dissect and analyze them quite to pieces in a serious fashion. It is time that ‘half the human race’ had something to say about the nature of its existence. Otherwise—without revised basic thinking—the woman intellectual is likely to find herself trying to draw conclusions—moral conclusions—based on acceptance of a social moral superstructure which has never admitted to the equality of women and is therefore immoral itself. 

 Lorraine Hansberry. Letter, signed LN originally published in The Ladder Vol. 1 No. 11 (Aug 1957). Reprinted in The Ladder Vol. I and II. Introduction by Barbara Grier (Gene Damon, pseudonym. NY: Arno Press, 1975.

Don’t get up. Just sit a while and think. Never be afraid to sit a while and think.

Asagai to Beneatha, Act III. Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun. With an introduction by Robert Nemiroff. NY: Vintage, 2004.