The rhetoric of protest in the Supreme Court case of Hansberry v. Lee and Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun



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This research study examines the rhetoric of protest in the legal case involving Carl Hansberry and his struggle to keep the home he had purchased for his family in a previously all-White neighborhood in Chicago. He filed a lawsuit when his family was going to be evicted from the home because the area was covered by a restrictive covenant. Restrictive covenants were agreements signed by property owners in neighborhoods that stated that the property could not be sold or rented to African Americans. The courts upheld these agreements as legally binding. Carl Hansberry had to purchase the home through a Caucasian liaison. The court case was argued in several lower courts before culminating in an appeal to the United States Supreme Court in 1940. Carl Hansberry won the right to stay in the home on a technical premise called res judicata because he had not been a part of the original class suit. Carl Hansberry’s filing a lawsuit was an act of protest. Protest rhetoric can take many forms including legal cases and classic dramas. In 1959 Carl Hansberry’s daughter, Lorraine Hansberry, debuted her play A Raisin in the Sun, which was inspired by her experiences moving into the subdivision and the animosity she was exposed to as her family lived in the neighborhood. This study examines her play and other selected public statements in terms of the rhetoric of protest contained in them.



Rhetoric, Lorraine Hansberry