Lorraine Vivian Hansberry (May 19, 1930 – January 12, 1965) was an American playwright and painter. Her drama A Raisin in the Sun (first performed in 1959) was the first drama written by a black woman to be produced on Broadway, and was the winner of the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for best Broadway play of the 1958-1959 season. In 2004, A Raisin in the Sun received a Broadway revival earning Tony Awards for Phylicia Rashad and Audra McDonald. Hansberry grew up on the South Side of Chicago, in the neighborhood of Woodlawn.
Hansberry was born in Chicago, Illinois, the youngest child of Carl Augustus Hansberry and Nannie Perry Hansberry.[Cheney,A. Lorraine Hansberry, Boston.Twayne] Her parents were Republicans who bequeathed their Afrocentric ideology to their daughter (prior to the 1932 presidential election, a majority of African-Americans voted Republican). Her father was a real estate broker.
Hansberry grew up in a white, middle-class neighborhood and attended private school because her parents wanted her to have a good education. In order to move into the neigborhood Hansberry's father had to first overcome a racially restrictive covenant that attempted to prohibit African-American families from buying homes in the area. The legal struggle over their move led to the landmark Supreme Court case of Hansberry v. Lee, 311 U.S. 32 (1940). Though victors in the Supreme Court, Hansberry's family was subjected to what Hansberry would later describe as a "hellishily hostile white neighborhood."
Hansberry attended the University of Wisconsin and worked on the staff of Freedom magazine. She married Robert Nemiroff, a literature student, in 1953. They separated in 1957 and Hansberry openly declared her lesbian identity in The Ladder, one of the first lesbian publications in the United States. 
Her 1959 play A Raisin in the Sun made her the first black woman to win the New York Drama Critics' Circle's Best Play award. The play has become a classic.
She died of pancreatic cancer on January 12, 1965 at the age of 34.
The Sign in Sydney Brustein's Window ran for 101 performances on Broadway and closed the night she died. Her ex-husband Nemiroff became the literary executor for several of her unfinished works. Notably, he adapted many of her writings into the play, To Be Young, Gifted and Black, which was the longest-running Off-Broadway play of the 1968-1969 season. It appeared in book form the following year under the title, To Be Young, Gifted and Black: Lorraine Hansberry in Her Own Words.
She left behind an unfinished novel and three unfinished plays.
After her success with A Raisin in the Sun, Hansberry became the foremother of African American drama and many who followed felt a great debt to her vision. She also contributed to the understanding of abortions, discrimination, and Africa. In San Francisco, The Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, which specializes in original stagings and revivals of African-American theatre, is named in honor of her great contributions.