Lorraine Hansberry’s Gay Politics

Why the 'Raisin in the Sun' playwright's homosexual ties have been straight-washed from black history.

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Hansberry further elaborated on the point in an unpublished 1961 letter to another gay periodical, ONE magazine. “I have suspected for a good time that the homosexual in America would ultimately pay a price for the intellectual impoverishment of women,” she wrote, later adding, “Men continue to misinterpret the second-rate status of women as implying a privileged status for themselves; heterosexuals think the same way about homosexuals; gentiles about Jews; whites about blacks; haves about have-nots.”

These ideas were way ahead of their time. Hansberry’s evolving politics were groundbreaking, and many questions remain about how they impacted her work—both plays she wrote after Raisin included gay characters—and how her ideas impacted the budding movement for sexual freedom she joined in the 1950s. In ignoring these questions, we’ve limited our understanding of Hansberry, and we’re all poorer for it.

Kai Wright is a senior writer for The Root.

Also on The Root:

Henry Louis Gates Jr. remembers black America’s first mortgage crisis and Brian Gilmore examines the housing discrimination case behind ‘A Raisin in the Sun.’

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