American playwright LORRAINE HANSBERRY was born on this date (d: 1965). She is best known for her play “A Raisin in the Sun.” The play was a huge success. It was the first play written by an African-American woman produced on Broadway. It also received the New York Drama Critics Award making Hansberry the youngest and first African American to receive the Award. She married Robert Nemiroph, a Jewish literature student and songwriter, in 1953. They separated in 1957 and divorced in 1964. The marriage lasted only a few years because Hansberry soon began coming to terms with her Lesbianism.
Hansberry was a contributor to “The Ladder” the first Lesbian publication in the United States. Around 1957, Hansberry joined the Daughters of Bilitis, the pioneering lesbian organization based in San Francisco, and began receiving their journal, “The Ladder.” In May 1957, Hansberry wrote the first of two thoughtful letters to the magazine. Since the editorial policy was to identify letter writers with initials, the printed letter was signed only, “L.H.N., New York, N.Y.” – the writer’s identity was disclosed only after her death. In her letter, Hansberry mused about everything from butch-femme culture to the gaps between lesbians and gay men, displaying a feminist awareness that would grow stronger over the next few years. In August of that same year, “L.H.N.” once again wrote the The Ladder with more feminist commentary. The connections she drew between sexism and homophobia were ahead of her time: “Homosexual persecution has at its roots not only social ignorance, but a philosophically active anti-feminist dogma,” she wrote. She died on January 12,1965 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 34.