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In Her Own Words
It isn’t a circle—it is simply a long line—as in geometry, you know, one that reaches into infinity. And because we cannot see the end—we also cannot see how it changes. And it is very odd that those who see the changes—who dream, who will not give up—are called idealists…and those who see only the circle we call them the “realists”!
Asagai to Beneatha, Act III. In Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun. With an introduction by Robert Nemiroff. NY: Vintage, 2004.
We’ve been trying very hard. . .in America to pretend that this greatest conflict didn’t even have at its base the only thing it had at its base. . . Person after person will write a book today and insist that slavery was not the issue.
Lorraine Hansberry. “…Integration into a Burning House.” From a radio symposium on “The Negro Writer in America” on January 1, 1961; two excerpts from a Civil War Centennial program that included James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Nat Hentoff, Alfred Kazin, and Emile Capouya. 4:49. Lorraine Hansberry Speaks Out: Art and the Black Revolution. Harper Audio/Caedmon: Abridged edition (April 2009).
Do I remain a revolutionary? Intellectually—without a doubt. But am I prepared to give my body to the struggle or even my comforts? This is what I puzzle about.
Lorraine Hansberry. In To Be Young Gifted and Black: Lorraine Hansberry in Her Own Words. Adapted by Robert Nemiroff with an introduction by James Baldwin, p.83. NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1969
…All art is ultimately social; that which agitates and that which prepares the mind for slumber. The writer is deceived who thinks that he has some other choice. The question is not whether one will make a social statement in one’s work—but only what the statement will say, for if it says anything at all, it will be social.
Lorraine Hansberry, “The Negro Writer and His Roots: Toward a New Romanticism” The Black Scholar, Volume 12, Number 1, March/April 1981, p.5. Originally presented to The American Society of African Culture on March 1, 1959.
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.