There “saved” by whites, being convinced and taught as

There were many African American playwrights who changed the world’s perspective on blacks through their intimate plays. Vehement plays that were written out of anger, inspired by their experiences of racism, and plays meant to give hope to other generations who would face the same plight as the writers had faced. Adrienne Kennedy and Lorraine Hansberry wrote their plays about racism and about race relations because, at the time, art was a way for blacks to speak up and speak out about the prejudice they faced. Playwrights like Kennedy and Hansberry inspired generations of young negros to stay confident in who they are and be proud of their black heritage. The art they created also brought attention to the bigotry that was very much rampant in the United States in the lives of African Americans. When they faced tribulations, when their education and dreams and lives were hindered by racism, they wrote. They wrote because they knew the most important thing in the movement to end racial discrimination was that African Americans used their voice, and inspired younger generations to use their voice. Without a voice, they would not have been heard. If they were not heard, people never would have listened. If people did not listen, nothing would have changed. Art gave Hansberry, Kennedy, and many other black playwrights a voice and they used it to make sure that people not only listened, but understood. Understood what it felt like to be seen as an abomination, discriminated against and seperated from others because your skin was a few shades darker. Understood what it was like to work harder than most and still not be able to provide for your family or get noticed in the career you sought after. Understood the degradation of having to drink from seperate water fountains, being taught that your ancestors were inferior animals and savages that were “saved” by whites, being convinced and taught as children that blacks achieved nothing themselves and were not capable of achieving anything themselves. Kennedy and Hansberry were fortunate enough to have educated parents who made sure they knew the names of the blacks who did achieve. They grew up with confidence because their parents made sure to teach them about their heritage and instill a sense of pride in them that opposed the things that they were taught in school about blacks. Poor blacks did not have the same opportunities, or the same access to the inspiring knowledge of the African Americans who did achieve, as middle class or rich blacks. The work of Kennedy and Hansberry and their prominent rise to fame and adoration in the public eye had monumental effects on young African-Americans who were beginning to see people who looked like them being heard, speaking up for those who did not have a voice, and making their dreams come true in a world and era dominated by whites. Adrienne Kennedy used her experiences with racism as an adult and her ardent voice as a mixed African-American to write plays that would express that blacks were humans who searched for “self-integration, belongingness, and love” (Kellman 2). As a child, Kennedy’s parents instilled in her a pride in black accomplishment and fostered her intellectual growth and creativity. “Both parents instilled in Kennedy the importance of having a positive impact upon the world.” (Kellman 1) Kennedy growing up around African-Americans like “her parents and their friends-teachers, social and civic workers, doctors and lawyers-were members of the NAACP and the Urban League” (Adrienne Kennedy, Playwright 1), inspired her plays, according to Kennedy in her 1987 memoir, People Who Led to My Plays. Kennedy, who was of multi-racial heritage and was aware of her white ancestors, struggled to find her identity as a black playwright because she was torn between her “blackness” and “whiteness”.  Kennedy did not experience manifest racism until she was in college at Ohio State University in 1949. She became a part of a world where she was no longer judged by her abilities and her achievements, but by her skin. Kennedy grew up associating with her neighbors who were black, Jewish, Italian, eastern Europeans. When she went to Ohio State University she was exposed to a racially motivated identity crisis because there she felt isolated and inferior, things she had never felt before. There “her racial anger and her detestation of prejudice had eaten away at her in ways that would shape her future writing career” (Kellman 3). Her later works were also inspired by the racial prejudice her mother faced for being multiracial. “…reminded her of the racism she had encountered as an undergraduate at Ohio State University and of her mother’s being taunted as a ‘little yellow bastard.'” (Soloski 1)Kennedy’s plays explore the complexities of multiracial people and their struggle with their identity. Kennedy’s grandfather was a wealthy, white, peach farmer and her grandmother a fifteen year old who worked on his farm, according to a recent article written by Alexis Soloski in The New York Times. “That grandfather was the owner of a peach orchard. Her maternal grandmother was a 15-year-old African-American girl who worked it. ‘She died very young,’ said Ms. Kennedy. ‘She married and died young and my mother would never talk about her.'”  (Soloski 1). Kennedy’s mother did not speak much about her mother but she spoke about her childhood which became a basis for many of Kennedy’s monologues in her plays. “‘She told me everything else,’ Ms. Kennedy said. ‘The monologues in my plays are really my mother smoking Lucky Strike cigarettes and saying, ‘I remember when, I remember when, I remember when.”” (Soloski 1)Kennedy’s outstanding literary work granted her many awards and recognition and inspired other artists who drew from her work. ” Daphne Brooks, a professor of theater and African-American studies at Yale University, sees Ms. Kennedy’s wide influence, from the playwright Suzan-Lori Parks to the TV big wheel Shonda Rhimes. ‘Adrienne Kennedy brought to life the depths of black female interiority and the aching humanity of black womanhood,’ Ms. Brooks wrote…” (Soloski 1) “Kennedy’s drama is autobiographically inspired, shaped by her experience and generational vantage point…Kennedy’s most important works explore the tragic condition of daughter, mother, father…in the painful web of American race and kin relations…” (The Theatre of Adrienne Kennedy 1). Despite Kennedy’s tremendous influence in plays and writings about black people, black women-black characters-she does not believe that the predicament of race relations, although wildly improved, has been solved. So, in her old age she continues to write about the complex topic of race and relations between African Americans and Caucasians in her recently published play, He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box. “This play ‘ends tragically because I think very strongly that the plight still of American blacks is a tragic plight,’ she said. ‘Because whites won’t release us. That’s my comment on how things are.'”Lorraine Hansberry, like Kennedy grew up with middle classed, by white standards, parents who impressed a sense of racial pride into her mind as a child. Lorraine gained an awareness of world racial politics at a young age from her mother and father that never left her as an adult. When Lorraine was young her father’s, Carl Augustus Hansberry-who was a highly prominent member of black society-“greatest lesson to her about racial pride and determined resistance came when he decided to challenge Chicago’s restrictive covenants, the agreements among white real estate dealers that segregated the city into all-white and all-black sections.” (Wagley 360). Although, their family was evicted from it’s new home bought by their father in an all-white section, Hansberry later used the experience in her most well known play A Raisin in the Sun. Lorraine grew up around smart and ambitious African-Americans who had an effect on her confidence and inspired characters in her plays. Her uncle, William Leo Hansberry, who taught African history at Howard University “helped inspire Lorraine’s own powerful sense of affinity with Africa.” (Wagley 361). He attracted many African students to his classes who were involved in resistance movements to European colonialism and would eventually become leaders in their newly independent countries like Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Nnamdi Azkewe and Julius Nkize of Nigeria. The students Lorraine’s uncle attracted to his classes provided inspiration for the African character. Joseph Asagai, in A Raisin in the SunHansberry, also like Kennedy, experienced problems with racism while growing up. “In 1947, the year in which she was elected president of the debating society at Englewood High School, she, along with other middle-class, well-behaved black students, observed a mob of striking white students answering shouted insults with shouted rebuttals.” (Wagley 360). She experienced further problems with discrimination at the University of Wisconsin in 1948 and discovered Drama, and the arts, as a way to fight it. Hansberry moved to New York in 1950 and began her “active involvement with the struggle for social change by working for Freedom, the radical newspaper founded by Paul Robeson…” (Wagley 361). Lorraine began her career there as a reporter covering stories on poverty, racism, colonialism, politics, world events. Hansberry also spent time reviewing books and dramas by blacks. She eventually rose to editor in 1952. She also met her husband, Robert Barron Nemiroff (Caucasian), during that year. Hansberry eventually quit Freedom to work on her own writing in 1953, “because she considered her writing the most effective contribution she could make to the social and political conflicts of her time.” (Wagley 362). When the time came, her husband and a mutual friend, Philip Rose helped Hansberry get A Raisin in the Sun published and produced. Hansberry’s play was declined by major Broadway producers because they did not want to take the risk of investing in a play about the life of African Americans but Philip Rose and David J. Cogan helped find small investors who were willing to take a risk. The play opened on March 11, 1959 with a cast of talented well known actors in “black theatre”. Including Sidney Poitier, Claudia McNeil, Lloyd Richards, Glynn Turman, Ruby Dee, Diana Sands, etc. A Raisin in the Sun became a success and in 1959 Lorraine Hansberry became the fifth woman and first African American to win the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play of the Year. The play made Hansberry a celebrity and a legend. Hansberry’ characters depicted the diversity of the black community and gave whites a scope into the life of a somewhat authentic African American family.

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