On March of 1959, Lorraine Hansberry made history as the first-ever African American to author a play performed on Broadway. Hansberry’s groundbreaking play, “A Raisin in the Sun”, is about a struggling Black family in Chicago attempting to better themselves with the help of an insurance payout after the death of their father. The New York Drama Critic’s Circle named it the best play of 1959. Although the play received great success, many are unaware of Hansberry’s impact beyond the Broadway classic.
Now, a new documentary about Hansberry’s personal life as an activist and legendary woman of color has made its way to television. Filmmaker and Peabody-Award-winner Tracy Heather Strain spearheaded the project. “I’d been thinking about Lorraine and doing research on her for years. It’s more than a labor of love; It’s almost like a calling,” said Strain in a City Lights interview.
“I first encountered Lorraine Hansberry when I was 17. There was something about her. I had never encountered an African American woman who thought like that about race and class and gender … and she just stayed in my head.”
The documentary tilted, “Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart” is part of PBS’s American Masters year-long series and Inspiring Woman online campaign. This is said to be the first in-depth look of Hansberry’s life. The documentary looks into the young star’s personal papers, archives, home movies, rare photos and much more. Additionally, the film delves into the influences that helped mold Hansberry’s childhood, writing, and activism.
According to PBS family, friends and colleagues, including “A Raisin in the Sun” 1959 Broadway cast members Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee, actor and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte, Hansberry’s sister Mamie Hansberry, Lloyd Richards, Amiri Baraka and Louis Gossett, Jr., share their memories and personal stories of Hansberry.
The documentary premieres nationwide on Friday, January 19 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings) and will be available to stream the following day at www.pbs.org/americanmasters and all PBS apps.