Understanding A Raisin in the Sun: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding A Raisin in the Sun: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding A Raisin in the Sun: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding A Raisin in the Sun: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Synopsis

A Raisin in the Sun is the first play by a black woman to be produced in a Broadway theater. First performed in 1959, before the civil rights and women's movements came to the fore, it raises issues of segregation, family strife, and relationships between men and women that are both representative of the time and timeless in their universality. This interdisciplinary collection of commentary and forty-five primary documents will enrich the reader's understanding of the historical and social context of the play. A wide variety of primary materials sheds light on integration and segregation in the 1950s and 1960s; relationships between African Americans and Africans; relationships between men and women within African American culture; Chicago as a literary setting for the play; and contemporary race relations in the 1990s. Documents include first-person accounts, magazine articles and editorials espousing opposing arguments, excerpts from the works of Toni Morrison, W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey, bell hooks, Malcolm X, and Richard Wright, and a selection of pertinent government documents and eye-opening statistics. Many of the documents are available in no other printed form. Each chapter concludes with study questions and topics for research papers and class discussion, as well as lists of further reading for examining the themes and issues raised by the play.

Excerpt

When A Raisin in the Sun opened on Broadway in 1959, it became the first play by a black woman ever to be produced in a Broadway theater. Running for a total of 530 performances, the play also won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. It was adapted as a film in 1961 and presented as an American Playhouse television production in 1989. It has since become a frequently assigned text in high school and college literature courses, and it continues to be performed in a variety of venues throughout the country.

Although it was written before the height of the civil rights movement during the 1960s rather than in response to it, A Raisin in the Sun raises several critical issues with which the United States and the world would grapple over the coming decades. Indeed, a person could open nearly any contemporary newspaper or news magazine and see these same issues debated despite the different contexts. The most prominent issue raised in the play is integration versus segregation, particularly in regard to housing. When the play was initially performed most areas of the United States were segregated in fact, and many were segregated by law. Although the law has changed during the intervening years, the degree to which the fact of segregation has changed is at best debatable; no one could reasonably argue that the United States has achieved a color- blind society in any arena.

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