Hansberry’s <em>A Raisin in the Sun</em> and the “Illegible” Politics of (Inter)personal Justice


  • Tricia Rose




Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 play A Raisin in the Sun has long been misunderstood as a celebration of racial integration and the possibility that Black families can attain the American Dream by accessing the fruits and benefits of homeownership. This misinterpretation has long deflected attention away from the play’s grounding in the Black radical tradition and its searing critiques of upward mobility, normative domesticity, the white nuclear family, and homeownership. Hansberry’s play reveals that Black exclusion was a necessary component of the American Dream itself. In a move that may be even more important today than when the play was first written and performed, Hansberry used her play as an opportunity to examine the freedom dreams of everyday people and explore the dangers of the constant crushing deferral and systematic denial of them. By creating a drama based in a Black domestic sphere that exposes the interior, intimate impact of structural racism via housing segregation, oppression, economic exploitation, and inaccessible educational opportunity, Hansberry is able to reveal the importance of this nexus in a deft and complex fashion. The home and the central roles all the women play serve as a powerful rejection of the twin legacies of sociological discourses about Black family/cultural dysfunctionality. These discourses, essential for garnering support for policies that created racial housing segregation to cordon off Black life, also regulate interracial intimacy and contact and represent a defining nexus for Black social relations. A Raisin in the Sun champions the resistive and restorative power of Black love and redefines it as a political act.