The date was March 11, 1959 when Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” opened on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, making the then 29-year-old the first Black woman playwright to have a play produced on Broadway.
Naming the play after a line in Langston Hughes’ poem, “A Dream Deferred,” Hansberry depicted an African American family living on the Southside of Chicago, who had to put their dreams on hold due to financial hardships and racial challenges.
Today the world remembers Hansberry for her incredible body of work, but thanks to Boston documentarian Tracy Heather Strain, audiences will now get to learn more about Hansberry through a new documentary called “Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart.”
In reflecting on the time when she was first inspired by the legendary playwright after her grandmother took her to see a production of Hanberry’s play “To Be Young, Gifted and Black”, Strain told New York Times: “I’d never encountered a young Black woman sharing her inner thoughts before, and those thoughts and observations were remarkably similar to the ones that I had about things like race, gender and class. It stayed in the back of my mind for a long time.”
Pictured: Filmmaker Tracy Heather Strain and actress Alexandria King during reenactment filming for Lorraine Hansberry/ Photo via: Thirteen With Media Impact
According to PBS, the documentary uses “a remarkable collection of archival footage, home movies, rare photos and unpublished documents.” It also features interviews with other greats who knew Hansberry personally, such as Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, and Louis Gossett Jr. – who all starred in the 1961 film adaptation of “A Raisin in the Sun.” The documentary is narrated by LaTanya Richardson Jackson and Lorraine Hansberry is voiced by Anika Noni Rose.
Strain’s feature length documentary has been 14 years in the making, and now it will make its broadcast debut tonight on PBS’ “American Masters” at 9 p.m. ET. Be sure to tune in.