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In Her Own Words
Like [Charles White], I came to adolescence in a community where the steel veil of oppression which sealed our ghetto encased within it a multitude of Black folk who endured every social ill known to humankind: poverty, ignorance, brutality and stupor. And, almost mystically beside all of it: the most lyrical strengths and joys the soul can encompass. One feels that the memories of that crucible, the Chicago South Side, must live deep within the breast of this artist.
Lorraine Hansberry. We Are of the Same Sidewalks. Foreword to gallery brochure, Charles White Exhibit, ACA Gallery (1961). Published in Freedomways 20 (Winter 1980): 198.
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.
I sit at this desk for hours and hours and sharpen pencils and smoke cigarettes and switch from play to play—Sidney, Touissant, Les Blancs and—nothing happens. I begin to think more and more of doing something else with my life while I am still young. I mean, almost anything—driving an ambulance in Angola or running a ski lodge in upstate New York, instead of this endless struggle. I expect the theatre will kill me.
Lorraine Hansberry, Journal entry, September 16, 1964.
Mama—Mama—I want so many things…I want so many things that they are driving me kind of crazy...
Walter to Mama, Act I Scene II. In Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun. With an introduction by Robert Nemiroff. NY: Vintage, 2004.
A device is a device, but. . .it also has consequences: once invented it takes on a life, a reality of its own. So, in one century, men invoke the device of religion to cloak their conquests. In another, race. Now, in both cases you and I may recognize the fraudulence of the device, but the fact remains that a man who has a sword run through him because he refuses to become a Moslem or a Christian—or who is shot in Zatembe or Mississippi because he is black—is suffering the utter reality of the device. And it is pointless to pretend that it doesn’t exist—merely because it is a lie!
Tsembe to Charlie, Act Two, Les Blancs. In Lorraine Hansberry, 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. Edition. New York: Vintage Books, 1994.
Seems like God don’t see fit to give the black man nothing but dreams—but He did give us children to make them dreams seem worthwhile.
Mama to Ruth, Act III. In Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun. With an introduction by Robert Nemiroff. NY: Vintage, 2004.
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.
When you starts measuring somebody, measure him right…Make sure you done take into account what hills and valleys he come through before he got wherever he is.
Mama to Beneatha, Act III. In Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun. With an introduction by Robert Nemiroff. NY: Vintage, 2004.
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.
I don’t think people start out in this world to be bad. They start out to be happy.
Lorraine Hansberry, letter to The Ladder, 1957.