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Les Blancs: The Collected Last Plays of Lorraine Hansberry by Lorraine Hansberry. New York. 1972. Random House. hardcover. 372 pages. June 1972.  Jacket design by Bill Allen. 039446480x.

 

 

039446480xFROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

   ‘A little more than a month before the assassination of Malcolm X, Lorraine Hansberry died; she was thirty-four. Somehow it seems like more than coincidence that the two should die within less than a month and a half of each other and scarcely nine months before the ‘deferred dream’ exploded in the streets of Watts. Each of them possessed an uncommon prescience They knew that a plague was about to be loosed upon the land.  ‘ So writes Julius Lester in the introduction to this collection of Lorraine Hansberry’s lost works. At the time of her death in 1965, Lorraine Hansberry’s reputation as one of America’s leading playwrights rested primarily on one play, A RAISIN IN THE SUN, a major work of our time. ‘Never before in the entire history of the American theater had so much of the truth of black people’s lives been seen on the stage,’ wrote James Baldwin concerning it. Until the off-Broadway production in 1969 of TO BE YOUNG, GIFTED AND BLACK, Miss Hansberry had become a part of theatrical history, which is to say, almost forgotten, It was assumed that nothing in her work was relevant to the sixties. But that assumption could only have been made by those who had not returned to it but retained only shadowy and impressionistic memories of early productions. Far from being outdated and irrelevant to the black struggles of today, Ms. Hansberry’s writing anticipates and illuminates the struggles which black people in this land are carrying on right now. Her vision - what Mr. Lester calls her ‘gift to make us see the extraordinary in those who society had decreed were merely ordinary’ — is one of affirmation, and not the despair into which so many artists fall. She was a political radical, whose politics were not dogma but oneness with her people and all people and whose ‘genius,’ Lester writes, ‘lies in her ability to meld her revolutionary commitment with her artistic integrity.  Lorraine Hansberry is the black artist who lived beyond anger, which is not to say that she wasn’t angry. Her plays are an expression of rage against the outrages perpetrated against humanity. Anger did not define her art, but motivated and informed it. The quality which pervades her plays is compassion. She didn’t make the mistake of hating white people. She hated what people did to each other’ - and above all hated the social order that caused inhuman acts. For the young writer - black and white – she stands as the quintessential model, not only for her vision, but for her skill and integrity in the expression of that vision.’ Thus Lorraine Hansberry’s writings can be seen as an important prophetic journey into a time when all men, regardless of race or creed or color, can solve their conflicts humanely and treat each other with compassion. In this volume Robert Nemiroff, Miss Hansberry’s literary executor, has collected and edited her last works, giving for each the critical background necessary to place its importance in the canon of her work. LES BLANCS, which opened on Broadway in 1970, is a penetrating exploration of the making of a black revolutionary and is considered by many to be Ms. Hansberry’s best and most significant play. WHAT USE ARE FLOWERS?, which deals with the perpetuation of the human race, is a beautiful example of Ms. Hansberry’s affirmation of life. The third play in this volume, THE DRINKING GOURD, is a television drama commissioned – but never produced - by NBC. It is an incisive picture of slavery which Ms. Hansberry described as ‘a serious treatment of family relationships by a slave-owning family and their slaves.’ The history of that controversial NBC series, which Mr. Nemiroff provides, illuminates the battlefield in which Lorraine Hansberry wrote with enormous perseverance and extraordinary gifts.

 

 

 Hansberry Lorraine Lorraine Vivian Hansberry (May 19, 1930 – January 12, 1965) was an American playwright and writer. Hansberry inspired Nina Simone's song 'To Be Young, Gifted and Black'. She was the first black woman to write a play performed on Broadway. Her best known work, the play A Raisin in the Sun, highlights the lives of Black Americans living under racial segregation in Chicago. Hansberry's family had struggled against segregation, challenging a restrictive covenant and eventually provoking the Supreme Court case Hansberry v. Lee. The title of the play was taken from the poem 'Harlem' by Langston Hughes: 'What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?' After she moved to New York City, Hansberry worked at the Pan-Africanist newspaper Freedom, where she dealt with intellectuals such as Paul Robeson and W. E. B. Du Bois. Much of her work during this time concerned the African struggle for liberation and their impact on the world. Hansberry has been identified as a lesbian, and sexual freedom is an important topic in several of her works. She died of cancer at the age of 34.

 

 

 

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