Ten days before she would become the first black female playwright to have a drama performed on Broadway, Lorraine Hansberry delivered the keynote address at the first conference of Negro writers in New York. Langston Hughes was among the notables in the room to hear what the 28-year-old playwright had to say.
This was a chance for black writers to meet, to debate the purposes of literature and black literature in the struggle for racial equality. I have come to maturity, as we all must, knowing that greed and malice and indifference to human misery, bigotry and corruption, brutality and, perhaps above all else, ignorance abound in this world. One cannot live with sighted eyes and feeling heart and not know or react to the miseries which afflict this world.
Hansberry perceives the failure for people to act on questions of injustice as though they are closing their eyes to the world. She both feels a sense of responsibility but she also embraces a commitment to radical honesty about the state of the world. What I write is not based on the assumption of idyllic possibilities or innocent assessments of the true nature of life, but rather my personal view that posing one against the other, the human race does command its own destiny, and that that destiny can eventually embrace the stars.