Had Lorraine Hansberry not succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 34, she would be 86 today (May 19). The celebrated playwright of “A Raisin In The Sun,” whose 1959 Broadway run made Hansberry the first Black woman with a Broadway-produced show, spent her tragically short life using her art and public platform to fight racism and segregation.
For today’s #TBT, we look back to a speech Hansberry delivered in 1964 whose core message about White people’s support for Black-led Civil Rights activism still resonates with contemporary racial justice movements. ”The Black Revolution and the White Backlash,” which you can listen to above, concerned tensions between White liberals and Black activists at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. According to American Radio Works, Hansberry delivered harsh truths about liberal racism—all while actively battling cancer:
The problem is we have to find some way with these dialogues to show and to encourage the white liberal to stop being a liberal and become an American radical. [applause] I think that then it wouldn’t – when that becomes true, some of the really eloquent things that were said before about the basic fabric of our society, which after all, is the thing which must be changed, you know, [applause] to really solve the problem, you know. The basic organization of American society is the thing that has Negroes in the situation that they are in and never let us lose sight of it.
Listen to her full speech above.