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Saturday, November 15, 2014

This Week in American History


On this day, Nov. 12, 1940, the Supreme Court ruled on a case that would inspire one of the seminal plays of the 20th Century, “A Raisin in the Sun.”  The parents of Lorraine Hansberry, Carl and Nannie, a real estate broker and a schoolteacher, had left the Jim Crow South only to discover hostility in the North.  
It was in 1937 that they tried to move into the all-white Washington Park section of Chicago.  Neighbors filed a lawsuit forcing the family out on the basis of restrictive covenants.  Lorraine, the youngest of the couple’s four children, was eight years old at the time and witnessed violence against her family as her parents tried to stand their ground. The Hansberrys went to court to challenge the restrictive covenants and to return to the house they bought. 

The case, Hansberry v. Lee, culminated in a 1940 Supreme Court decision that helped strike a blow against segregation, though the hostility continued. Neighbors surrounded their house at one point, throwing bricks and broken concrete, narrowly missing Lorraine’s head, and neighborhood children ganged up and attacked her at school.
The experience would plant the seed for the 1959 play and later the film, “A Raisin in the Sun,” starring Sidney Poitier, Claudia McNeil and Ruby Dee.  It would not be until 1968 that the landmark Fair Housing Act would officially prohibit housing discrimination in the United States.  
Her father would not live to see that day nor his daughter's Broadway triumph. Carl Hansberry, a Mississippian who had journeyed to Chicago during the Great Migration, never recovered from the family's housing ordeal.  He died at age 50 in 1946 of a cerebral hemorrhage in Mexico, where he was planning to move his family out of disillusionment. Their house at 6140 South Rhodes is now a Chicago landmark and the beloved play their family's legacy.

-- The Warmth of Other Suns

For more on the family's ordeal: 

"To Be Young, Gifted and Black" by Lorraine Hansberry 
http://www.chipublib.org/lorraine-hansberry-biography/
http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2009/03/not_in_my_backyard.html

Timeline of the struggle for fair housing in the US:  http://www.howardfairhousing.org/case_law/34/

From the Facebook page of Isabel Wilkerson
On this day, Nov. 12, 1940, the Supreme Court ruled on a case that would inspire one of the seminal plays of the 20th Century, “A Raisin in the Sun.” The parents of Lorraine Hansberry, Carl and Nannie, a real estate broker and a schoolteacher, had left the Jim Crow South only to discover hostility in the North. 
It was in 1937 that they tried to move into the all-white Washington Park section of Chicago. Neighbors filed a lawsuit forcing the family out on the basis of restrictive covenants. Lorraine, the youngest of the couple’s four children, was eight years old at the time and witnessed violence against her family as her parents tried to stand their ground. The Hansberrys went to court to challenge the restrictive covenants and to return to the house they bought.

The case, Hansberry v. Lee, culminated in a 1940 Supreme Court decision that helped strike a blow against segregation, though the hostility continued. Neighbors surrounded their house at one point, throwing bricks and broken concrete, narrowly missing Lorraine’s head, and neighborhood children ganged up and attacked her at school.

The experience would plant the seed for the 1959 play and later the film, “A Raisin in the Sun,” starring Sidney Poitier, Claudia McNeil and Ruby Dee. It would not be until 1968 that the landmark Fair Housing Act would officially prohibit housing discrimination in the United States.

Her father would not live to see that day nor his daughter's Broadway triumph. Carl Hansberry, a Mississippian who had journeyed to Chicago during the Great Migration, never recovered from the family's housing ordeal. He died at age 50 in 1946 of a cerebral hemorrhage in Mexico, where he was planning to move his family out of disillusionment. Their house at 6140 South Rhodes is now a Chicago landmark and the beloved play their family's legacy.
-- The Warmth of Other Suns
For more on the family's ordeal:
Timeline of the struggle for fair housing in the US:http://www.howardfairhousing.org/case_law/34/




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