Raisin in the Sun: Historical Context & Author Background


In this unit, you will be reading a play called A Raisin in the Sun. In this play, the Younger family struggles to get out of the Ghetto of Chicago's Southside in the 1950's; through this struggle, Lorraine Hansberry addresses themes of African American identity, social class, and the racial challenges that create difficulties as the Youngers struggle to achieve their dreams. This work is semi-autobiographical; many of Hansberry's experiences throughout her life led her to write about the differences between the American Dream and the reality of African Americans' experiences in that time period. In order to understand the complex themes in this play, you will need to also understand the context in which it was written. Through this webquest, you will learn about some of the factors that impacted Lorraine Hansberry throughout her life, the inspiration for the play's title, and the conditions that influenced African American life in Chicago in the 1950's. 


Task #1: The Author 

Using the following resources, compose a 1 paragraph (minimum 6 sentences) author biography that addresses the following: 

a. Who was Lorraine Hansberry and what was she known for throughout her life? Include specific accomplishments. 

b. Describe Hansberry's family background and discuss (3) specific civil rights cases she or her family was involved in. 

c. With these things in mind, what sort of things do you believe inspired Hansberry to write about the themes mentioned in the Webquest introduction? 





Task #2: The Civil Rights Movement 

Review the following timeline: http://www.infoplease.com/spot/civilrightstimeline1.html

Explain (in one sentence) what major events took place during these years/dates during the Civil Rights Movement.

  • 1948
  • 1954
  • 1955 (Aug)
  • 1955 (Dec. 1)
  • 1957 (Sept)
  • 1960 (feb. 1)
  • 1961
  • 1963 (Aug. 28)
  • 1964 (July 2)
  • 1967 (June 12)
  • 1968 (April 4)


Task #3: The Great Migration 

Part 1: View the following video & answer the questions below. 

  1. What was one major reason blacks left the South to move to cities like Chicago and New York? 
  2. Between 1910-1940, the African American population increased by ______% in Chicago
  3. How did African Americans learn about new job opportunities, train schedules, and more? 

Part 2: 

Based on the following maps, what do you notice about Chicago's black population between 1960 and 2011?

Part 3: Read the excerpts and respond to this question: what strikes you about this text? 

Task 4: The South Side of Chicago

Examine the websites below; read the articles and analyze the images featured on the sites. They capture what life was like for African Americans living in the South Side of Chicago during the 1940's and 1950's.

(1) What is your overall impression of the South Side of Chicago at this time? 

(2) What might life have been like? What does this tell you about society at the time? 

When you have finished reading the articles and viewing the photos: 

(3) write a journal entry from the point of view of one of the figures you have seen in the photos.

Your entry should (a) describe what you have learned. (b) Describe the picture you are writing about and the person in it. (c) Use a photo from either City at a Crossroads or draw one on your own.

  1. City at a Crossroads (be sure to flip through the photos)— http://ti.me/1KZdEOs

  2. Racial Restrictive Covenants—http://bit.ly/1QNXRyO

  3. South Side—http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/1177.html


Turn in your accompanying handout at the end of this hour.