Hansberry’s legacy and accomplishments were also invoked recently in a discussion about the ever commanding presence of James Baldwin, and I thought of the letter he wrote about her in Esquire magazine in 1969. It was entitled “Sweet Lorraine,” a nod to the popular song “and that’s the way I always felt about her,” Baldwin began, “and so I won’t apologize for calling her that now.”
Toward the end of the brief letter Baldwin commented on her condition and the cancer that had bedridden her. “I saw Lorraine in her hospital bed, as she was dying,” he wrote. “She tried to speak, she couldn’t. She did not seem frightened or sad, only exasperated that her body no longer obeyed her; she smiled and waved. But I prefer to remember her as she was the last time I saw her on her feet.”
A Raisin in the Sun is a play by Lorraine Hansberry that debuted on Broadway in 1959. The title comes from the poem “Harlem” (also known as “A Dream Deferred”) by Langston Hughes. The story tells of a black family’s experiences in the Washington Park Subdivision of Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood as they attempt to “better” themselves with an insurance payout following the death of the father. The New York Drama Critics’ Circle named it the best play of 1959. (Wikipedia).