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In Her Own Words
I am a writer. I am going to write.
Lorraine Hansberry writing to Robert Nemiroff, December 26, 1952. In To Be Young Gifted and Black: Lorraine Hansberry in Her Own Words. Adapted by Robert Nemiroff with an introduction by James Baldwin, p.87. NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1969.
. . .It grows out of a thought of mine, as I study history, that virtually all of us are what circumstances allow us to be and that it really doesn’t matter whether you are talking about the oppressed or the oppressor. An oppressive society will dehumanize and will dehumanize and degenerate everyone involved—and in certain very poetic and very true ways at the same time it will tend to make if anything the oppressed have more stature—because at least they are arbitrarily placed in the situation of overwhelming that which is degenerate—in this instance the slave society—so that it doesn’t become an abstraction. It has to do with what really happens to all of us in a certain context.
Lorraine Hansberry, unpublished transcript of “Playwright at Work” interview by Frank Perry for the National Educational Television Broadcasting System (PBS), WNET/Channel 13 NYC, May 21, 1961.
I am ashamed of being alone. Or is it my loneliness that I am ashamed of? I have closed the shutters so that no one can see. Me. Alone.
Lorraine Hansberry, Easter, 1962. Lorraine Hansberry, To Be Young Gifted and Black: Lorraine Hansberry in Her Own Words. Adapted by Robert Nemiroff with an introduction by James Baldwin. NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1969.
I think that imagination has no bounds in realism—you can do anything which is permissible in terms of the truths of the characters. That’s all you have to care about.
Lorraine Hansberry. “Interview with Lorraine Hansberry by Studs Terkel.” Radio interview with Studs Terkel, broadcast on WFMT Radio, Chicago, Illinois, May 12, 1959. Transcript reprinted in “Make New Sounds: Studs Terkel Interviews Lorraine Hansberry.” American Theater (November 1984): 6.
If anything should happen—before ‘tis done—may I trust that all commas and periods will be placed and someone will complete my thoughts—This last should be the least difficult—since there are so many who think as I do—
Lorraine Hansberry, undated. In To Be Young Gifted and Black: Lorraine Hansberry in Her Own Words. Adapted by Robert Nemiroff with an introduction by James Baldwin, p. 261. NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1969.
It is in the nature of men to take life for granted; only the absence of life will seem to you the miracle, the greatest miracle—and by the time you understand that it should be the other way around—well, it will be too late, it won’t matter then.
Lorraine Hansberry. From What Use are Flowers? in Les Blancs: The Collected Last Plays. Includes The Drinking Gourd and What Use are Flowers? Edited, with critical background by Robert Nemiroff, with a Foreword by Jewell Handy Gresham Nemiroff and an Introduction by Margaret B. Wilkerson, 254. New York: Vintage Books, 1994.
Look at the world that awaits you!
Lorraine Hansberry, “The Nation Needs Your Gifts” speech to the Readers Digest/United Negro College Fund creative writing contest winners, May 1, 1964.
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.
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.
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.