A Raisin in the Sun, written by Lorraine Hansberry and first performed in 1959, is a groundbreaking play that explores the struggles of a Black American family living in Chicago’s South Side during the 1950s. The story revolves around the Younger family, who are awaiting a $10,000 life insurance check following the death of the father. Each family member has different dreams and aspirations for the money, leading to conflicts. The play delves into themes of racial discrimination, the importance of family, and the pursuit of the American Dream. The title, taken from Langston Hughes’s poem “Harlem” (which is also sometimes called “A Dream Deferred”) suggests the central question of the play: What happens to a dream that is deferred or postponed?
The characters, including the matriarch Lena, her son Walter Lee, his wife Ruth, and his sister Beneatha, grapple with their individual identities and desires while facing external pressures. Hansberry’s work is notable for its realistic portrayal of African American life and its honest examination of the challenges faced by the family.
A Raisin in the Sun holds historical significance as one of the first plays to portray the Black American experience on Broadway. Its success paved the way for more diverse voices in American theater. The play has been adapted into films in 1961 and in 2008, and remains a staple in literature and drama courses across the country.