The Lorraine Hansberry Photograph Collection (1940s-1980s) primarily documents productions of Hansberry's plays "A Raisin in the Sun," "The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window," and "Les Blancs," as well as "To Be Young, Gifted and Black," which was adapted posthumously from her writings. Images consists of scenes from theatrical, motion picture, and television productions, views of rehearsals, as well as individual and group portraits of actors, playwrights, directors and producers. Other photographs in the collection include the dedication of the Lorraine Hansberry Intermediate School 167, Bronx, New York City (1975) and an unidentified benefit (1984), both attended by Robert Nemiroff, Hansberry's ex-husband. Images of Hansberry are limited to the group portrait noted below and three snapshots, one as a child and two as a teenager.
Documentation of U.S. and foreign productions of "A Raisin in the Sun" includes the first production, on Broadway, in 1959, the touring company, various revivals, the Columbia Pictures production (1974), and the PBS television special (1989). A promotional photograph for the Broadway production depicts Hansberry with co-producers David Cogan and Philip Rose, director Lloyd Richards, and lead actor Sidney Poitier. Overseas productions include performances in France, Germany, Ukraine, a children's performance in South Africa, as well as a photo album documenting a production in the Czechoslovakia (1960). Images from "The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window" document the original Broadway production (1964). Images from the four productions of "Les Blancs" include Broadway (1970) and the 1988 revival in Washington D.C.. Also included are scenes from six productions of "To be Young, Gifted and Black" including off-Broadway (1968) and touring companies. Documentation for a PBS television special (1972) only consists of publicity portraits of cast members. Cast members pictured in the various productions of Hansberry's plays include Barbara Barrie, Ruby Dee, Al Freeman, Jr., Danny Glover, Micki Grant, Brent Jennings, James Earl Jones, Janet League, Delroy Lindo, Claudia McNeil, Sidney Poitier, Esther Rolle, Diana Sands, Glenn Thurman, Cicely Tyson, and Camille Yarbrough.
The collection also contains studio portraits of African American women modeling braided hairstyles sent to Hansberry by her neice, Nantille Charbonnet.
Biographical/historical: Born in 1930, Lorraine Hansberry was an African American writer, editor, and political activist. Best known as a playwright, her award-winning Broadway hit, "A Raisin in the Sun," was inspired by her father's legal battle against racially segregated housing laws in Chicago. Her second Broadway production, "The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window," opened and her last play, "Les Blancs," was in rehearsals when she died from pancreatic cancer in 1965 at age 34.