A bronze statue of Lorraine Hansberry, the first Black female playwright to reach Broadway, has been installed in front of Chadwick Boseman College of Fine Arts Building at Howard University.
On view until November 30, the statue is a national traveling exhibition produced by the Lorraine Hansberry Initiative. Hansberry is best known for her play “A Raisin in the Sun,” which premiered on Broadway in 1959. Los Angeles-based artist Alison Saar was commissioned a little over four years ago to sculpt the statue titled “To Sit a While.”
Saar is known for artwork that focuses on the African diaspora and Black female identity. The statue is a life-size likeness of Hansberry surrounded by five movable bronze chairs representing aspects of her life. On the Lorraine Hansberry Initiative website, Saar describes the desired feeling from the statue.
“So I invite you to take a seat. Congregate with friends to read poems or sing songs of resistance. Gather with strangers to share ideas and dreams. Come alone and be inspired by the brilliance of Lorraine Hansberry. Be inspired to find your own brilliance, be inspired to contribute to the Lorraine Hansberry Initiative to support women and non-binary artists of color, gift them the time and the space…to sit a while and think.”
“To Sit a While” was unveiled on June 9 in New York City’s Times Square. Following the exhibition at Howard University, it will travel to Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Chicago, which was Hansberry’s hometown.
The Lorraine Hansberry Initiative has been designed to bring attention to the playwright’s work beyond “A Raisin in the Sun,” one of the most performed plays in American theater. Hansberry died of pancreatic cancer at age 34 in 1965.
In conjunction with this national exhibition tour, a graduate school scholarship honoring Hansberry has been launched under the auspices of the Lilly Awards, which recognizes women’s work in theater. The Hansberry Initiative and the Lilly Awards hope the national tour brings attention to the playwright’s total body of work as an artist, journalist, and civil rights leader.
“Her writings and advocacy have proven to be as clear and relevant today as it was during her short lifetime and deserves to be studied and revered as such,” the Initiative states on its website.
Hansberry wrote “A Raisin in the Sun” as a semi-autobiographical family drama that tells the story of an African American family living under racial segregation on the South Side of Chicago. The play, which opened on Broadway in 1959 with Sidney Poitier in the cast, won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle award for best play, making Hansberry, at 29, the youngest American and first Black recipient of the award.
A new revival of “A Raisin in the Sun” is currently on stage at the Public Theater in New York.
Learn more about the exhibition, the scholarship, and the life of Lorraine Hansberry at https://lorrainehansberryinitiative.org