Radical Vision A Biography of Lorraine Hansberry Soyica Diggs Colbert

Publication date:
22 Jun 2021
Yale University Press
288 pages: 235 x 156mm
19 b-w illus.
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A “loving, lavishly detailed” (New York Times) and captivating portrait of Lorraine Hansberry’s life, art, and political activism—one of O Magazine's best books of April 2021

"A devoted and deeply felt account of the development of an artist’s mind."—Dave Itzkoff, New York Times Book Review (2021 Summer Reading issue)

In this acclaimed biography of Lorraine Hansberry, Soyica Diggs Colbert narrates a life at the intersection of art and politics, arguing that for Hansberry the theater operated as a rehearsal room for her political and intellectual work. Celebrated for her play A Raisin in the Sun, Hansberry was also the author of innovative journalism and of plays touching on slavery, interracial communities, and Black freedom movements. Hansberry was deeply involved in the Black freedom struggle during the Cold War and in the early civil rights movement, and here Colbert shows us an artist’s life with the background of the Greenwich Village art scene in the 1960s, the homophile movement, Black diasporic freedom movements, and third-wave feminism.
Drawing from Hansberry’s papers, speeches, and interviews, this book provides a new point of entry in the history of Black radicalism, and a new perspective on Black women in mid‑twentieth‑century political movements.

Soyica Diggs Colbert is Idol Family Professor of the College at Georgetown University.

"Brilliant. . . . Colbert mines Hansberry’s work as both a playwright and essayist. . . . As a scholar of African-American theater as well as literature at Georgetown University, Colbert is unparalleled in her understanding of both fields and Hansberry’s influence in each."—Imani Perry, New York Review of Books

"Here is Hansberry resurrected from the archives, from her scripts, scraps and drafts. . . . Colbert adds detail and dimension to Hansberry’s work. . . . Loving, lavishly detailed."—Parul Sehgal, New York Times

"Colbert . . . has accomplished the mighty task of resurfacing and reconciling the many facets that Hansberry possessed. . . . A devoted and deeply felt account of the development of an artist’s mind."—Dave Itzkoff, New York Times Book Review

“Colbert offers a luminous, Black feminist study of the life of the mind of one of our most formidable cultural intellectuals. Combining dazzling archival research with rigorous and expansive close-readings of rare documents and Hansberry’s rich range of dramatic works, Radical Vision attests to the fact that the world of the Black woman artist is ‘a story of ideas’ urgently in need of telling.”—Daphne A. Brooks, author of Liner Notes for the Revolution

“A rich narrative that takes readers on a journey through Hansberry’s intellectual life, as she reckons with some of the most difficult aesthetic and political problems of her time—and ours.”—Paige A. McGinley, Washington University in St. Louis

“Colbert makes the study of Hansberry’s literary work inseparable from her lived experience of complicating identity categories. This exquisite biography of Hansberry is groundbreaking.”—Margo Natalie Crawford, University of Pennsylvania