Google Street View of 112 Waverly Place. Image via Google Maps
On October 16, the home of Lorraine Hansberry, a playwright and activist best known for writing “A Raisin in the Sun,” was honored with a plaque by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and the Historic Landmarks Preservation Center. The ceremony at her former residence, 112 Waverly Place, celebrated the life and legacy of Hansberry, who died in 1965 at the age of 34.
During the event, several speakers discussed Hansberry and her work, including filmmaker, Tracy Heather Strain, and Catherine Morris, Curator for the Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum.
“What is very clear is that Lorraine Hansberry was a genius — prescient and eloquent on the shortcomings of our country in the 1950s and ’60s,” said Black America journalist, Carol Jenkins, at the unveiling. “We really, really need her now — on race, on LGBTQ issues, on war.”
Though she was raised in Chicago, Hansberry moved to Harlem in 1951 to attend the New School. There, she worked on the black newspaper, Freedom, alongside W.E.B. DuBois. In 1953, she married Robert Nemiroff and moved to 337 Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, where she wrote “A Raisin in the Sun,” inspired by her time in Chicago. The couple separated in 1957, around the time she also published several anonymous letters in “The Ladder,” revealing her struggles as a closeted lesbian.
In 1959, “A Raisin in the Sun” debuted on Broadway, becoming the first play written by a black woman to be performed on Broadway, and was named best play of 1959 by the New York Drama Critic’s Circle. Then in 1960, she bought the building at 112 Waverly Place and began a relationship with Dorothy Secules. Hansberry lived there until 1965, when she passed away from pancreatic cancer.
Portrait of dramatist Lorraine Hansberry, circa 1950s. Image From New York Public Library Digital Collections
During her time at this building, Hansberry continued her civil rights and gay rights activism as co-chair of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Life Membership Committee and worked to developed a Greenwich Village branch of the NAACP.
A full video of the plaque installation can be viewed here.