Lorraine Hansberry's play A Raisin in the Sun, which premiered in 1959, draws its title from Langston Hughes' poem "Harlem." Hughes' poem expresses the disappointment that many African Americans felt following World War II. Hughes expands on the metaphor by comparing the delayed dream to a sore. He also uses language that is unusual for the time, such as "darky" and "nigger."
Hughes was not only a poet but also an actor and civil rights activist. In addition to writing "Harlem," he also wrote several other poems used as songs during rallies and speeches by Martin Luther King Jr. Before his death in 1967 at the age of 37, Hansberry became one of the first American writers to focus extensively on black issues through her work.
In conclusion, Lorraine Hansberry took elements from various sources to create her own voice as a playwright. She drew inspiration from many different people including Langston Hughes, who has been called the "poet-prophet" of the Civil Rights Movement.
The connection between Langston Hughes' poem "Harlem (A Dream Deferred)" and the play (Lorraine Hansberry derived the title of her play A Raisin in the Sun from the poem) is that both revolve around the difficulty, and in many cases near impossibility, for African Americans to achieve what is euphemistically referred to as "the American dream." In the poem, the speaker describes a trip he takes through Harlem with its "pearl white streets" and "smiling faces." He comes away thinking that Harlem is indeed an ideal place in which to live and work, but soon finds out that this isn't necessarily the case. Like the speaker in the poem, Langston Hughes also came to realize that living in such a racially divided community was not going to be easy.
Additionally, the poem "Harlem" contains many references to music that are important in understanding the relationship between the poem and the play. For example, the pearl white streets of Harlem were once known as "Million Dollar Mile," because they were completely paved over following World War I when cars became affordable for average Joes. The speaker in the poem compares the area to a stage where musicians can practice their craft undisturbed by racism or crime.
Langston Hughes' poem "Montage of a Dream Deferred," written as a criticism of Harlem culture, serves as the epigraph to A Raisin in the Sun. The title of the play is derived straight from a passage in Langston Hughes' poem on postponed hopes, and the epigraph presents a question that the play seeks to answer.
Hughes was a prominent American author and poet who lived from 100% health to die at age 46 due to kidney disease caused by diabetes. He's most known for his collection of poems entitled The Weary Blues, but he also published novels, essays, and short stories. Hughes was born into slavery in 1868 in New York City, but his family moved to North Carolina when he was young. His mother died when he was nine, and he was sent to live with his father's family in Virginia. When his father married again, this time to a woman who owned her own farm, Langston and his siblings were given some freedom and were allowed to stay there during the week while their parents worked the land. However, when harvest time came around, they were forced to return to New York City where they stayed with an uncle until another year had passed.
In New York City, Langston Hughes learned to read and write, and he became interested in poetry. He started writing poems at age fourteen, and three years later, he began publishing them in newspapers and magazines.