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Lorraine Hansberry Biopic In Development

Films on Princess Diana, Steve Jobs, and Jimi Hendrix should make 2013 a rich year for biopics. An intriguing new one just has been announced: a movie on the life of Lorriane Hansberry, playwright, author, and activist.

The big question is who will play Lorraine? According to Shadow and ActTaye Hansberry, Lorraine’s grand niece, has been cast. She will also help write the screenplay. Jaleel White (from Family Matters) will play James Baldwin, one of Lorraine’s close friends. Production begins in the fall. 

Lorraine (left) and her grand niece, Taye Hansberry

Lorraine’s most-known work, A Raisin in the Sun, was inspired by her family’s attempts to integrate a Chicago neighborhood. Unmarred by violent attacks against them and a court order to move, her family stood its ground. Their case, Hansberry v. Lee, eventually made it to the Supreme Court, which in 1940 set aside the restriction that African American families could not purchase or lease land in that Chicago neighborhood.

Hansberry began her professional life at the black newspaper, Freedom, under the tutelage of actor and activist Paul Robeson in New York City. She wrote her play concurrently, and A Raisin in the Sun premiered in 1959. It was the first Broadway theater produced by an African-American woman. Hansberry became the youngest person ever to win the New York Critics Circle award.

Her second play, The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window, opened in 1964 to harsh reviews. However much this hurt, Hansberry stepped up into a prominent role in the civil rights movement, speaking out against racism and homophobia.

The playwright was just 34 when she died of pancreatic cancer. After her death, her former husband, Robert Neimiroff, adapted her collection of essays into a play titled, To Be Young, Gifted and Black. Her close friend, Nina Simone, was inspired by the work and came out with a song of the same name in honor of Lorraine. Listen to it below:

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