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The New York Public Library Opens New Display Commemorating Celebrated Playwright Lorraine Hansberry and Groundbreaking Play A Raisin in the Sun

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Items from NYPL’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture highlight original 1959 production, which was the first play written by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway

February 18 -- The New York Public Library (NYPL) will be presenting a commemorative display celebrating the work of acclaimed playwright Lorraine Hansberry in honor of Black History Month. The exhibition, sponsored by TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank, will feature selected items from NYPL’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in connection with Hansberry’s seminal work, A Raisin in the Sun. The display titled A Raisin in the Sun: Lorraine Hansberry’s Dream on Broadway will be at the iconic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue in the McGraw Rotunda on the third floor beginning February 18.


“Lorraine Hansberry was a groundbreaking playwright and her play A Raisin in the Sun helped to awaken the American public to the struggles and rewards of life for African Americans in the mid-20th century,” said NYPL President Tony Marx. “The New York Public Library is honored to share items from the Schomburg Center’s amazing collection that highlight this honest and poignant work, which is an inspiration to past, present, and future generations.”

Featuring items from the Lorraine Hansberry Papers at the Schomburg Center – which include  writings, autobiographical materials, journals, diaries, as well as her personal and professional correspondence – the display chronicles the creation, production, performance, and reception of the play. A Raisin in the Sun, the title of which was inspired by the Langston Hughes poem “Harlem,” was the first play written by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway and was lauded for its striking portrayal of an African American family.

Items in the exhibition include:

  • The original A Raisin in the Sun manuscript featuring the first three pages including the page with the crossed-out Langston Hughes poem, the title page, and the production notes,
  • Four congratulatory telegrams from Tennessee Williams, Langston Hughes, Ossie Davis, and Margaret Burroughs,
  • A photo of Lorraine Hansberry at her typewriter and another photograph of Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee along with members of the original cast in rehearsal
  • The original Broadway playbill with Sidney Poitier on the cover and the original souvenir program open to the center spread with many action shots featuring most of the cast,
  • A contemporary copy of Jet magazine featuring the original cast on the cover, and
  • A 35-minute documentary on Lorraine Hansberry from 1975, which will run on a loop beside the exhibition.

A Raisin in the Sun offers a unique look into America’s past through the eyes of a brilliant playwright, an observer of the society around her. The exhibition offers the public an opportunity to visit the past and appreciate the culture of the time, while also providing them with a new perspective on a moment in history,” said Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

A Raisin in the Sun will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays; and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

Support for The New York Public Library’s Exhibitions Program has been provided by Celeste Bartos, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Mahnaz Ispahani Bartos and Adam Bartos Exhibitions Fund, and Jonathan Altman. 

About The New York Public Library

The New York Public Library is a free provider of education and information for the people of New York and beyond. With 92 locations—including research and branch libraries—throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, the Library offers free materials, computer access, classes, exhibitions, programming and more to everyone from toddlers to scholars, and has seen record numbers of attendance and circulation in recent years. The New York Public Library serves more than 18 million patrons who come through its doors annually and millions more around the globe who use its resources at www.nypl.org. To offer this wide array of free programming, The New York Public Library relies on both public and private funding. Learn more about how to support the Library at nypl.org/support.

The Schomburg Center

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a research unit of The New York Public Library, is generally recognized as one of the leading institutions of itskind in the world. For nearly 90 years the Center has collected, preserved, and provided access to materials documenting black life, and promoted the study and interpretation of the history and culture of peoples of African descent. Educational and Cultural Programs at the Schomburg Center complement its research services and interpret its collections. Seminars, forums, workshops, staged readings, film screenings, performing arts programs, and special events are presented year-round. More information about Schomburg’s collections and programs can be found at www.schomburgcenter.org.

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