To Be Young, Gifted and Black (play)

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To Be Young, Gifted and Black: Lorraine Hansberry in her Own Words, is a play about the life of American writer Lorraine Hansberry, adapted from her own writings. Hansberry was best known for her 1959 play A Raisin in the Sun , the first show on Broadway written by an African-American woman. After her death in 1965, Hansberry's ex-husband and friend, songwriter and poet Robert Nemiroff, collated her unpublished writings and adapted them into a stage play that first ran from 1968 to 1969 off Broadway. It was then converted into an equally successful autobiography with the same title. [1]


Nina Simone wrote a song with this title, inspired by Hansberry's play and book.


The play was adapted from Lorraine's letters, interviews, and journal entries. It begins at the start of Lorraine's life, highlighting her early childhood in a Chicago ghetto to her college years and then later life, including the creation and inspiration for A Raisin in the Sun. Her journey from Chicago to New York was complicated by obstacles she overcame in order to get her play on Broadway and incorporates fragments of her personal life, such as her marriage and involvement in politics (e.g., her strong support of racial and gender equality). The play concludes with her battle with terminal illness, from which she eventually died at 34. [2]


The play was well received and was one of the most successful plays off-Broadway during the 1968–1969 season. The play is still anthologized and performed around the world. The autobiography adapted from the play was also critically acclaimed. [3]

In 1972, Michael Schultz directed a made-for-TV movie, also titled To Be Young, Gifted and Black, based on the stage play. It featured Roy Scheider, Blythe Danner, and Ruby Dee. [4]

See also

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A Raisin in the Sun is a play by Lorraine Hansberry that debuted on Broadway in 1959. The title comes from the poem "Harlem" by Langston Hughes. The story tells of a black family's experiences in south Chicago, as they attempt to improve their financial circumstances with an insurance payout following the death of the father, and deals with matters of housing discrimination, racism, and assimilation. The New York Drama Critics' Circle named it the best play of 1959, and in recent years publications such as The Independent and Time Out have listed it among the best plays ever written.

The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window is the second and last staged play by playwright Lorraine Hansberry, author of A Raisin in the Sun. The play is a story about a man named Sidney, his pitfalls within his personal life, and struggles in Bohemian culture. The play premiered October 15, 1964 and received mixed reviews. It encompasses themes of race, suicide, and homosexuality, and also focuses on individual characters learning to cope with life.

(To Be) Young, Gifted and Black may refer to:

Charlotte Zaltzberg was nominated for a Tony Award in 1974 for co-writing the book for the 1973 Broadway musical Raisin, which won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1974. She worked with Robert Nemiroff, Lorraine Hansberry's former husband and the executor of her estate, on adaptations of Hansberry's work for theater productions.

Robert B. Nemiroff was an American theater producer and songwriter, and the husband of Lorraine Hansberry.

Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart is a 2017 American documentary film by Tracy Heather Strain, Randall MacLowry and Chiz Schultz on the life and work of writer Lorraine Hansberry. Hansberry is best known as the playwright of A Raisin in the Sun, a story that partially mirrored experiences of her family in confronting racial segregation. It premiered in 1959, won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play and was the first play by a Black woman to be produced on Broadway.


  1. Margaret B. Wilkerson (Winter 1999). "Lorraine Hansberry: A Research and Production Sourcebook by Richard M. Leeson". African American Review. 33 (4): 710–712. doi:10.2307/2901367. JSTOR   2901367.
  2. Mann, Iris. "'To Be Young, Gifted and Black' Belongs More to the Page Than the Stage". Backstage. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  3. Fullwood, Steven G. (2010). "Young, Gifted, Black and Complicated: The Question of Lorraine Hansberry's Legacy" (PDF). Africana Heritage. 10 (1): 1, 8, 9, 11. Retrieved 26 April 2014.
  4. "To Be Young, Gifted, and Black (1972, TV Movie)". The Department of Afro-American Research Arts and Culture. November 24, 2017. Retrieved November 23, 2019.