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AMERICAN MASTERS: Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart

Stream now or tune in Friday, June 11, 2021 at 9 p.m. on KPBS 2

Lorraine Hansberry holds hands and sings with Singer Nina Simone and other ac...

Credit: Courtesy of Lorraine Hansberry Properties Trust

Above: Lorraine Hansberry holds hands and sings with Singer Nina Simone and other activists at a pre-benefit gathering for the Student NonViolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in June 1963 in the home of Activist/Singer/Actor Theodore Bikel.

Explore the life and work of the “Raisin in the Sun” playwright and Civil Rights activist

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On March 11, 1959, Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” opened on Broadway and changed the face of American theater forever. As the first-ever black woman to author a play performed on Broadway, she did not shy away from richly drawn characters and unprecedented subject matter.

The play attracted record crowds and earned the coveted top prize from the New York Drama Critics’ Circle. While the play is seen as a groundbreaking work of art, the timely story of Hansberry’s life is far less known.

Launching AMERICAN MASTERS Season 32, the new documentary “Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart” is the first in-depth presentation of Hansberry’s complex life, using her personal papers and archives, including home movies and rare photos, as source material.

The film explores the influences that shaped Hansberry’s childhood, future art and activism. It premiered in 2018 on PBS.

Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart - Trailer

Explore the inner life and works of the activist, playwright and author of "A Raisin in the Sun," Lorraine Hansberry. Narrated by actress LaTanya Richardson Jackson and featuring the voice of Tony Award-winning actress Anika Noni Rose as Hansberry.

Filmmaker and Peabody Award-winner Tracy Heather Strain (UNNATURAL CAUSES, I’LL MAKE ME A WORLD, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE “Building the Alaska Highway”) crafts the story of one woman who believed, like many of her generation, that words could change society.

Lorraine Hansberry's Inspiration for "A Raisin in the Sun"

Lorraine Hansberry drew inspiration from personal experience when she sat down to write a play about a working class family on the South Side of Chicago. See how she worked to find the words to describe their hopes and struggles, and how she pressed on to complete "A Raisin in the Sun."

Family, friends and colleagues, including Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Harry Belafonte, sister Mamie Hansberry, Lloyd Richards, Amiri Baraka and Louis Gossett, Jr., share their personal memories of Hansberry, offering an intimate look at a woman who was, as Poitier says in the film, “reaching into the essence of who we were, who we are, and where we came from.”

The Groundbreaking Broadway Casting of "A Raisin in the Sun"

Sidney Poitier, Lloyd Richard and Ruby Dee reflect on the unprecedented casting of black actors in the Broadway debut of Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun."

Narrated by acclaimed actress LaTanya Richardson Jackson ("The Fighting Temptations," “A Raisin in the Sun”) and featuring the voice of Tony Award-winning actress Anika Noni Rose (“A Raisin in the Sun,” “Dreamgirls”) as Hansberry, the documentary portrays the writer’s lifetime commitment to fighting injustice and how she found her way to art — the theater — as her medium for activism at a crucial time for black civil rights.

Lorraine Hansberry speaks out against injustice

As "A Raisin in the Sun" broke new ground on Broadway, Lorraine Hansberry raised her voice for activism. Hear Lorraine Hansberry's speech of "sighted eyes and feeling heart" against injustice and racism.

AMERICAN MASTERS “Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart” also explores her concealed identity as a lesbian and the themes of sexual orientation and societal norms in her works.

The film title comes from Hansberry’s view that “one cannot live with sighted eyes and feeling heart and not know or react to the miseries which afflict this world.”

Lorraine Hansberry on being young, gifted and black

With her health failing, Lorraine Hansberry left the hospital to speak to the teenage winners of a national writing contest. She described the young writers as "young, gifted and black" - the words that inspired the Nina Simone song of the same name - and urged them to represent their community in their work.

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Join The Discussion:

"Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart" is on Facebook and Instagram. Follow @hansberrydoc on Twitter. #SightedEyesFeelingHeart

AMERICAN MASTERS is on Facebook, Instagram, tumblr, and you can follow @PBSAmerMasters on Twitter. #AmericanMastersPBS

Credits:

A production of Lorraine Hansberry Documentary Project, LLC in co-production with Independent Television Service and Black Public Media in association with The Film Posse, Chiz Schultz Inc. and American Masters Pictures. Materials from the Lorraine Hansberry Properties Trust were provided by special consultant Joi Gresham. Tracy Heather Strain is producer, director and writer. Randall MacLowry is producer and editor. Chiz Schultz is the executive producer. Executive producer for ITVS is Sally Jo Fifer, and Jacquie Jones for Black Public Media. Michael Kantor is AMERICAN MASTERS series executive producer.

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