The Pittsburgh Courier from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on January 23, 1965 · Page 9
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The Pittsburgh Courier from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania · Page 9

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Issue Date:
Saturday, January 23, 1965
Page 9
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Author of 'Raisin in the Sun' Dead at 34 Trih ute Late Lorraine Hansberry She Gave Nev Life To Negro' Qrama (EDITOR'S XOTK - The Ir'ilh of l.orrn,r Hmishr mi. - imglii. Inxt nrrk. ill thr ti'ir of .1 ijritis. nr'ii'.ii tiffrrlni hoih her friFiul.s null Ihf in n't. I inlrs v ho inlniiml h'T iiinu.s .so Hindi, fiiu In utility "A Sinful in llif Si - ii." ii lii li n n lor hi r thfi (Oirlrl S'rn York I'liinut Ciitiix Aim nl for IX'tX ".:. Itovr. Cuirirr thrill Tirol trritcr, rji'iil,i lllis (mini;) tiihilie to a ynnt Unly whose biiltuuit mntr i':ti t ml til ly inmii.i NEW YORK CITY Death, though promised and a definite guarantee, is life's most reluctant piomis - sary note. Therefore, when it foreclosed on the productive existence of Lorraine Hansberry, last week, it left unashamed sadness in its wake. In my estimation. Lonaine was not only too young to die, but also too honutiful arid too talented. Yet as 1 express this thought, I wonder what sin I have romm'fod. lor this, then, is the vill of God, the piumise of life fulfilled. Though she lived hut a few vears in the full bloom of womanhood, she accomplished the full rrasuie of living and left behind an immortality which will live out the life . - pan of even generations yet to be born. I wish I could sum up the total meaning of Lorraine's 34 years as a human being; and most especially those 16 years as a woman. Looking at it unemotionally, you get the feeling; that he wm created for just what she did. Many times when I watched her unguarded moments, her thought were beyond the second of which she was a part. I could see that here was an extra secial kind of human being, one who seemed ordained fur something" beyond the everyday scheme of things. And I felt that she was beyond and apart from just ordinary folks. Sometimes I even thought to be unfriendly, anti - social, a girl who should have been born tomorrow instead of some yesterday 84 years ago. " To me she always appeared the thinker, possessor of the solid inside knowledge of what the world was thinking with first hand information of how to lift it, and those who Inhabit it, out of the' rut of those hate - aching problems Which set nice against rare and nation against nation. I only had the pleasure of seeing one thing which Lorraine did. "A Raisin in the Sun," the prize - winning drama which marie history on Broadway and even now, in its own time, has become a classic of the legitimate stage. "A Raisin in the Sun" was the key in Lorraine's "write hand" which opened the doors of Broadway and the minds of producers to' not only Negro playwrights, but a new concept of plays about Negroes. It was a transfusion of hope for those who would correct the confused thinking about Negroes on the illuminated street. It gave life to a new k'nd of drama about the dramatic existence of a man bom black in a land where might is white and is, therefore, right. Her well written production was the first breakthrough In the b!cak despair and discouragement of the Negro vriter'and legitimate performer who, for all the seasons, were buried by the crushing avalanche of bigotry and bias. Even thing which has followed since that March, 1959, presentation of Phil Rose's production, "A Raisin in the Sun," starring Sidney Pokier, Claudia McNeil, Ruby Dee and featuring Diana Sands and Louis Gosset, among other J. - ,XS I Kill ic t; . 1 "Sv LORRAINE HANSBI RRY . . . cancer cut short her brilliant career highly accomplished thespians. has been built on the courage and simple know - how of that production. And the breakthrough was complete when it made Hollywood. When I saw Lorraine after all this, she was young, beautiful, richer dollar - wise, aifd famous. She had said part of what she had to say, but there were other words burning inside of her so I wonder, as she takes her place in the great beyond, was she supposed to say it all, or just put the lights on so that someone else might now step from the wings and continue the dialogue to complete the image of the, New Negro which Lonaine Hansberry wrote existed in a world created by someone else in which human beings of all races must live. Give tier her immortality, for it was justly earned in a never ceasing no man's land where the living is only easy in song and today the sad song is for Lorraine Hansberry, whose accomplishments make an awful lot of us happy that she lived even If for only a moment in our time. This then is her eulogy, quoted from an old interview I found among heaps of notes I have compiled on Lorraine since meeting her really in 1959, though I had met her years earlier in Chicago where she. was born. The Interview .summed up an answer to what she was after in writing "Raisin." "The thing I tried to show was the many gradations of even one Negro family, the clash of the old and the new, but most of all, the unbelievable courage of the Negro people." The title for her play, written before she was 27 years old, is from a poem, "Harlem," by Langston Hughes: "What happens to a dream deferred . . . Does it dry up, like a raisin in the sun. - does it fester like a sore and then run ... Or does it explode? She wrote it because she became disgusted with the whole body of material about Negroes. "Cardboard characters, cute dialect bits or hip - swinging musicals from exotic scores." In one short sweep she set it all right and for 19 months on Broadway and on the movie screens of the world here well versed answer gripped audiences and carved an immortal niche in the tlu - aVr for her. for UM . - : - 'i a final moment as this. W h Mirny Young Writer Loved Humanity, Reality By LINDSAY PATTKKSOX NEW YORK (ANPD Lorraine Hansberry. the brilliant playwright who died of cancer, last Tuesday, loved all of New York. She thought it was the most vitally alive city in the world. She had great sentimentality for Harlem and was frequently exasperated about all the articles written about her which never mentioned that she lived for a time in Harlem. "When I first came to New York," she said, '"I lived in Harlem, hut writers never put that in their stories." Miss Hansberry was more closely identified with Greenwich Village, which she found stimulating and conducive to her writing. She embraced the Village custom of having "people dropping in at all hours of the day and night," for a drink, a hit of talk, or "just an old fashioned argument about life." When "A Raisin In the Sun" became a hit play, many strangers knocked at her door and she was deluged by play scripts. Reluctantly, she had to limit her visitors. Some eople thought Miss Hansberry was a cynic about life, but she had a "great deal of hope," says a close relative. "She was always in there fighting, and if y"i r in there fighting, how can you he a cynic"? Miss Hansberry belonged to no organized religious denomination. She was not concerned about man's relation to God, but man's relation to man, an intimate confides. , "She had a religion, but not in the ordinary sense," says her relative. "She cared about people and she cared very much. Ideas, I would say, were a part of her religion." Perhaps a clue to .Miss Ilansberry's philosophy of life can he found in her current Broadway play, "The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window." Bruslein, the leading character, an idealistic Greenwich Milage newspaper publisher, says: "Yes, I care. I care about it all. It takes too much energy not to care. Yesterday 1 counted 26 gray hairs on the top of my head, all from not trying to care. The 'why' of why we are here Is an intrigue for adolescents; the 'how' is what must concern the living." The Chicago - born writer was passionately involved in the civil rights movement, and was always writing letters to the editor about some injustice or crisis in. human relations. Village politics interested her, too. Her letters on local political controversies were frequently published in "The Village Voice." Though she didn't like to travel by any mode of transportation. Miss Hanslerry would do so for any civil rights group which asked her. Frequently, students from Mississippi were housed in her Village apartment. If they needed money or other aid. without hesitation, she would provide what she could. She and her husband, Robert Nemiroff, were always sponsoring some benefit for the civil rights cause. She was not a society woman, for she found the social swim useless. She wanted people around her who had something to say. Then, too, she didn't like to "dress up." The writer loved to tell the story about the time her mother was visiting her in New York shortly after the opening of "A Raisin in the Sun." Her mother invited some Chicago friends over to meet her. When they arrived, the famed playwright was wearing blue jeans. 'How horrified they were," she said, "to see a person they considered a famous author in blue jeans." She had thought nothing about her attire until it was brought to her attention. , " " She liked nothing better than to read some of her work;' to friends whom she respected. "Would you like to hear something?" she would ask, not telling her listeners that she had written it. She wanted honest and unbiased opinions. - The playwright, too. was not satisfied about "A Raisin In the Sun" after she had finished writing it. A story made the rounds after the piay opened that she had thrown the manuscript in the fire and her husband retrieved it and took it to Phil Rose who later produced it. Miss Hansberry never denied this, for she thought it was a funny story. She was proud of other people's achievement, especially that of her uncle, Leo Hansberry, the historian and writer. When he went to visit her in the hospital two weeks ago, the sick woman seemingly gained new life. She wanted him to talk about his writing. "Aren't you tired?" he asked. He wanted to try, to discourage his niece from wasting her last remaining strength. "No," she said emphatically, "I want to hear all about what you are doing." Although she loved the city and had said many times she would never leave it under any circumstances, pressures got be too much In New Y'ork several years ago and Miss Hansberry found that she was not doing as much writing as she wished. She and her husband purchased a house in (roton, N'.Y., not far from the Hudson River. There she could walk in the woods in solitude and contemplate without interruption. The house is set In the woods. The only visibly signs of civilization as far as the eye can see are trees. At the time of her death, Miss Hansberry was involved in a wide range of literary projects. She was working on a musical adaptation of Oliver La Farge's novel, '"Laughing Boy," a study of Toussaint L'Ouverture, the Haitian liberator and a drama about Africa, "Les Blanes." Langston Hughes, from whose poem "Harlem" Miss Hansberry took the title of "A Raisin in the Sun," said that Miss Hansberry was a great loss to the world of art, especially to the American theater." Mrs. Countee Cullen, wife of the late poet and a close friend of Miss Hansberry. was heartbroken when she heard of the author's death. "She was a great human being with a great capacity for humanity. Her works have had such impact on the black man throughout the world." People in the News By WHITFXAW MacBKIDK SPht'K: That married Eastern medic who turned his bark on his white girlfriend when she popped up with a little brown baby, is really having the boom lowered on him. She put a big crimp in his new year by having him hauled off to jail and now is ready to press suit against hi;n for a sum which is put oi sigm. .aw CELEBRITIES HAILED HER GREATNESS . . . Miss Hansberry with show biz luminaries Oscar Brown Jr. and Nina Simone fX Vi X 1 - "tit w mmmmmm:r r - ; - - i:. - , .' RE( ElVED RUSSWL'RM AWARD f " - ' ... was one of many honors ' f ' v - ill: , , J lAf ! ill 1 & r f, Tf ' - inm - ni'n in - tr - f fHivni nrnitnt mi,g if? jWtJUI 1 5 , ',ml lLmm in,,.., i - i', n 0 '" i r , - i i t If I 1 - m NO' MP" - - rI ' i i V - r - A fry f ih ' - , A 4 ifx ,itt - 1 W v t 1 i., ' GREATS GET TOGKTHKR THEY STARRED IN AWARD WINNING BROADWAY TLAY . . . Ruby Dee, Sidney foitie.r and Diana Sand ACTRESS CLAUDIA Mc.M II. , . . "Kais;n" catapulted her to lUrdorn chick claims it's not the money she's after, since she's able to sup - DOrt the kiddie herself, hut that she's dying to get back at him for treating her like a natural dog , . . That Pennsylvania politico, who changes parties almost as often as some folks change their un derwear, mav well end up as a man without a party. H:s fre quent switching has caused those in both camps to distrust him and one biggie re ferred to. his mane u v e r i ngs as the most inex - usable example of political oppor tunism I've ever seen ... A soul sister from (town home wasn't quite CITED BY MADEMOISELLE ready for the ... Atly. Marian Wright. Shirley high - rise buildings Rnght and .Mile. Therese Bernard of Manhattan when she arrived there. She spent one nigiit in a roost on the seventeenth floor of a building and moved out the next day, complaining, "I sure don't intend to live in no airplane." . . . IX ANOTHER GROOVE: C. B. Atkins, theatrical mana ger and estranged husband of "Sassy" Sarah Vaughn, came up with a big coup ir. the music in - ' dustry by inking " pacts with song - stress Gloria Lynne and jazz . pianist Dorothy Donegan. Atkins stated that he plans to place the two in better rooms and get them more televi - sion exposure. Koin are dookcu by Joe Gl.iser's ABC organization. Atkins also has stolen a march on Ray Charles by snapping up Margie Hendrix and three of the Rae. lets. Miss Hendrix long has indicated a desire to go solo and is re - . . . Sammy Davis Jr. and Jimmy McGrift membered fo, the songs sne neipcu helped make famous while with Charles, like "You Are My Sunshine." "Tell the Truth" and "Hit the Road Jack." . ! . Jimmy McGriff, one of the hottest jazz organists around today, is going in for something different by adding a comedian to his musical trio. The comic's name is Charles Eck - stine no relation to Billy and he spells Jimmy and his boys between sets ... Inci dentally. McGriff dug having a chance to visit his friend Sammy Davis Jr., backstage at Gotham's Majestic Theatre where "Mr. Wonderful" is starring in "Golden Roy." . . . Mademoiselle Magazine honored Mississippi Summer Project volunteers by selecting Ally. Marian Wright for one of its annual Merit Awards. Miss Wright, along with other NAACP Legal Defense Fund attorneys, is defending many of those workers who have been arrested in Mississippi. ALso included in the Merit Awards are Actress Shirley Knight, academy award nominee, and Mile. Therese Bernard of the Universal and In ternational Exposition of Mon - V E STRONG treal Canada . . . Foxy Eaye . . . .sk(1Rpe.s ..iss L - X( - r, tnarlene Strong, a sophomore at 'Skegee, has been named that school's "Miss L'NCF" for 1965. This is the second consecutive year she has outdone competitors in the fund - raising activity. Now she'll compete for the title of "Miss National L'NCF," to be selected at the Annual Conference of the National Alumni Council, come Feb. 5 - 7, in Dallas, Tex. ... One of the quieter successes in Manhattan's business world is Miss Constance ' Walton, who is manager of one of Western Union Telegraph Company's busy branch offices in the Harlem area. She supervises 23 employes who send and receive an average of 700 messages daily. It may be Whitelaw's opinion only but Leslie Uggams is sounding more and more like Dorothy Collins, the gal who used to do those numbers on the old Hit Parade TV show. Now if Leslie wants to take my advise, she'll get off that bag and get a little more scul. Right now she may be making the dough, but she ain't saying nothin' ... A real sharp Pittsburgh housewife Is telling friends sne is becoming worried over some threatening phone calls she's been rteiv - ing. Seems like the nut w ho has been bugging her line has informed her, he'll rape her the first time he catches her out alone . ." . The "under" six foot Smoky City romeo who has been making time with his good friend's old lady, has decided to play it cool. "After all," he stated, "the guy has been p'etty nice to me." What the hipster isn't telling is that the gal in question has found herself another away from home playboy and has decided to drop the old flame . . . The whiskey hiues are really telling on that ageing Pittsburgh bachelor. His bouts with the bottle are becoming more frequent and close friends are said to be worried he might blow his job . . . Pittsburgh band leader Walt Harper caused some re - et.tment around a local television - station recently . . . What he did. w hil" lagging his new ,I:iz7 Woikshop, was to go to the station that gave him his first oig break after he had appealed on the other channels. at thp station promptly told him that wasn't the way to keep the faith. i. v V CONSTANCE W ALTON . . . keeps things buzzing 1

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