Quotes by Lorraine Hansberry, Author of A Raisin in the Sun

Lorraine Hansberry

Lorraine Hansberry was best known for A Raisin in the Sun (1959), the first play written by an African-American woman to be staged on Broadway. Hansberry won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award and numerous other honors for this play, which has been made twice into feature films and continues to be staged around the world.

Among her other well-known works were To Be Young, Gifted and Black (both a stage play and a book) and Les Blancs. She also wrote political essays for magazines and journals, and was active in the pursuit of race and gender equality.

She died prematurely of cancer at age 34, leaving a lasting legacy in the theatrical world. These quotes by Lorraine Hansberry demonstrate her exceptional talent.

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“A woman who is willing to be herself and pursue her own potential runs not so much the risk of loneliness as the challenge of exposure to more interesting men — and people in general.” (Quoted in Wild Women Talk Back: Audacious Advice for the Bedroom, Boardroom, and Beyond, 2004)

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“Take away the violence and who will hear the men of peace?”

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“For some time now — I think since I was a child — I have been possessed of the desire to put down the stuff of my life. That is a commonplace impulse, apparently, among persons of massive self-interest; soon or later we all do it. And, I am quite certain, there is only one internal quarrel: how much of the truth to tell? How much, how much, how much! It is brutal in sober uncompromising moments, to reflect on the comedy of concern we all enact when it comes to our precious images!” (“Lorraine Hansberry: Social Consciousness and the Will,” in Freedomways 19, 1979)

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“I don’t think people start out in this world to be bad. They start out to be happy.” (from a letter to The Ladder, 1957)

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“Obviously the most oppressed of any oppressed group will be its women … Obviously, since women, period, are oppressed in society, and if you’ve got an oppressed group they’re twice oppressed.” (from an interview with Studs Terkel, 1959)

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“I feel that women, without wishing to foster any strict separatist notions, homo or hetero, indeed have a need for their own publications and organization.” (on the Daughters of Bilitis magazine, The Ladder)

 

“See only foreign movies, no plays hardly, attend meetings almost every night, sing in a chorus, eat all the foreign foods in N.Y., go for long walks in Harlem and talk to my people about everything on the streets, usher at rallies, make street corner speeches in Harlem and sometimes make it up to the country on Sundays … Write stories and articles for all the little journals of the working class around. Supposed to get married about September.” (from her personal papers, early 1950s)

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To be young, gifted and black by Lorraine Hansberry

To Be Young, Gifted and Black by Lorraine Hansberry

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Quotes from To Be Young, Gifted and Black, 1969

“We only revert back to mystical ideas — which includes most contemporary orthodox religious views, in my opinion – because we simply are confronted with some things we don’t yet understand.”

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“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.”

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“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.”

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“I would very much like to live in a world where some of the monumental problems could at least be solved; I’m thinking, of course, of peace.  That is, we don’t fight. Nobody fights. We get rid of all the little bombs– and the big bombs.”

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Lorraine Hansberry

Learn more about Lorraine Hansberry

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“The supreme test of technical skill and creative imagination is the depth of art it requires to render the infinite varieties of the human spirit—which invariably hangs between despair and joy.”

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“Eventually it comes to you: the thing that makes you exceptional, if you are at all, is inevitably that which must also make you lonely.” (To be Young, Gifted and Black, 1969)

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“I wish to live because life has within it that which is good, that which is beautiful, and that which is love. Therefore, since I have known all of these things, I have found them to be reason enough and — I wish to live. Moreover, because this is so, I wish others to live for generations and generations and generations and generations.” (To be Young, Gifted and Black, 1969)

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Scene from A Raisin in the Sun, 1959

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From A Raisin in the Sun, 1959

“Don’t get up. Just sit a while and think. Never be afraid to sit awhile and think.”

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“Children see things very well sometimes — and idealists even better.” 

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“Seem like God didn’t see fit to give the black man nothing but dreams -but He did give us children to make them dreams seem worth while.”

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“There is always something left to love … and if you ain’t learned that, you ain’t learned nothin’ …”

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“I want to fly! I want to touch the sun!” 

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“Child, when do you think is the time to love somebody the most? When they done good and made things easy for everybody? Well then, you ain’t through learning-because that ain’t the time at all…when you starts measuring somebody, measure him right, child, measure him right.

Make sure you done taken into account what hills and valleys he come through before he got to wherever he is.”

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“It’s all a matter of ideas, and God is just one idea I don’t accept. It’s not important. I am not going out and commit crimes or be immoral because I don’t believe in God. I don’t even think about it. It’s just that I get so tired of Him getting credit for all the things the human race achieves through its own stubborn effort. There simply is no God! There is only Man, and it’s he who makes miracles!”

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“There is only one large circle that we march in, around and around, each of us with our own little picture — in front of us —our own little mirage that we think is the future.”

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“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’!”

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A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

Lorraine Hansberry page on Amazon

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