This A Raisin in the Sun Introduction PowerPoint supports students by providing background, previewing the drama, and introducing learning goals. Use the content warning slide to express your expectations for discussions of sensitive topics.
A Raisin in the Sun PowerPoint (PDF preview):
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This presentation initiates the complete A Raisin in the Sun Unit from TeachNovels.
RELATED POST: 10 A Raisin in the Sun Pre-reading Activities
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A Raisin in the Sun Introduction PowerPoint Slides:
1) Title page
2) Presentation Overview:
• CONTENT WARNING!
• Setting and Plot
• Historical Context
• Lorraine Hansberry
• About the Title
• Theme Subjects
• Key Elements
• Allusions and References
• Final Task Preparation
Abortion • Racism and internalized racism • Sexism • Alcohol abuse • Homophobia • Religious arguments (atheism) • Swearing • Slurs (including the N-word) • Antiquated terms (negro)
4) Setting and Plot
The “Black Belt” of the city (between 12th and 79th Streets and Wentworth and Cottage Grove Avenues)
A tenement apartment
The hard-working Younger family live in a cramped, shabby apartment. The family awaits a life insurance payment following the passing of Big Walter.
5) A Raisin in the Sun Historical Context:
• Post-War Period
• Civil Rights Movement
• The Women’s Movement
• Housing in Chicago
• Decolonization in Africa
6) Post-War Period
African Americans, women, and other minority groups contributed mightily during World War II.
World War II ended in 1945, leading to a period of population growth and prosperity in the United States.
The wealth and opportunity of this period was not shared equally.
7) The Civil Rights Movement
1948: Executive Order 9981 ends segregation in the U.S. military.
1954: Brown v. Board of Education ends segregation in public schools.
1955: Emmett Till, a 14-year-old from Chicago, is brutally murdered in Mississippi for allegedly flirting with a white woman.
1955: Rosa Parks’ defiance prompts the Montgomery bus boycott. 1957: the “Little Rock Nine” fight to integrate Little Rock Central HS.
1957: The Civil Rights Act of 1957 helps protect voter rights.
1959: A Raisin in the Sun debuts on Broadway.
1961: “Freedom Riders” protest throughout the South.
1963: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivers his “I Have a Dream” speech.
8) The Women’s Movement
Women gained the right to universal suffrage (voting in every state) with the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920.
Lorrain Hansberry wrote A Raisin in the Sun in what historians call the “second wave” of feminism. The second wave responded to the growing cult of domesticity following WWII.
During the second wave, feminists aimed to overcome societal and cultural expectations as well as legal and professional limitations.
9) Housing in Chicago
The Great Migration (1916-1970): More than 6 million African Americans moved from the the rural South to cities like Chicago.
Many Chicago neighborhoods formed “restrictive covenants,” legally binding contracts that specified that an owner could not rent or sell to black people.
Even after these contracts were ruled illegal, banks, brokers, neighborhood organizations, and violent racists resisted integration.
10) Decolonization in Africa
In 1959, much of Africa was still controlled by European nations, but independence movements were gaining momentum.
On March 6, 1957, Ghana (formerly Gold Coast) became the second sub-Saharan African country to gain its independence.
The play explores this topic through a character named Joseph Asagai, a college student from Nigeria.
11) Lorraine Hansberry
• May 19, 1930 – January 12, 1965
• In 1938, her father bought a house in the all-white Chicago neighborhood of Washington Park.
• The Hansberrys were prominent figures in the African American community and socialized with people like W. E. B. DuBois and Langston Hughes.
• In 1950, Lorraine moved to New York City to pursue her career as a writer.
• Hired at the black newspaper Freedom in 1951
• Supported Daughters of Bilitis, a lesbian rights group
• The first African American woman playwright to have a play performed on Broadway
• Died at the age of 34 of pancreatic cancer
12) About the Title
The play’s title comes from a 1951 poem by Langston Hughes.
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
13) Theme Subjects
A theme in literature is the author’s message about life or humanity. A theme is always a complete sentence.
A Raisin in the Sun Theme Subjects: • Money / poverty • Hopes and dreams • Identity • African heritage • Dignity • Sexism • Racism
14) Key Elements
Certain aspects of Hansberry’s craft and structure deserve special attention.
We will be studying… • Symbolism • Dialogue and dialect • Character motivation • Word choice • Effects of structure (such as tension, mystery, and surprise) • Theme development
15) Allusions and References:
• What Is an Allusion?
• The Bible
• African Civilizations and Cultures
• Booker T. Washington
• Movies and Performers
16) What Is an Allusion?
Allusion: A literary device where the author creates a subtle connection to a well-known idea, example, or text. Knowledgeable readers will make the connection. For example, if an author names a character Ophelia, it might allude to Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
If the connection is directly stated, it is usually called a reference.
Do you think the title of the play is an allusion or a reference?
17) The Bible
Christianity plays an important role in the lives of the Youngers.
Pay special attention when characters make allusions or references to the Bible. • “And then there are all those prophets who would lead us out of the wilderness…” • “Thirty pieces and not a coin less!” • “THAT MONEY IS MADE OUT OF MY FATHER’S FLESH!”
18) African History / Culture
• The Benin, Ashanti, Ethiopian, and Songhay civilizations
• Shaka Zulu: a king who re-organized the Zulu military and developed a spear known as the assegai.
• “Owimoweh” is the title of an African chant, referring to the waking of the lion.
• Jomo Kenyatta: anti-colonial activist who became prime minister of an independent Kenya in 1964.
• One of the Titans in Greek religion and a god of fire
• Prometheus means “fore-thinker,” and he is a mental giant (literally).
• Creates the first humans out of clay
• Defies the gods by stealing fire and giving it to humanity
• The gods punish him by chaining him to a rock where an eagle eats his regenerating liver every day.
20) Booker T. Washington
April 5, 1856 – November 14, 1915
American educator, author, orator, and advisor to several presidents of the United States
Washington advocated African American progress through economic success and entrepreneurship rather than direct challenges to Jim Crow segregation.
(We will study his ideas in his own words later in the unit.)
21) Movies and Performers
• Greta Garbo: Swedish-American actress known for portraying tragic, melodramatic characters.
• Pearl Bailey: American actress and singer. After appearing in vaudeville, she made her Broadway debut in St. Louis Woman in 1946.
• Mrs. Miniver: A 1942 film starring Greer Garson as Mrs. Miniver, an English middle-class housewife who keeps her hopes (and her roses) alive during WWII.
• Scarlett O’Hara: The over-the-top southern belle from Gone with the Wind.
(These references meant more in 1959.)
22) Final Task:
• What is Symbolism?
• Symbol Analysis
• Symbol Hunting
23) What is Symbolism?
Symbols are items, events, places, or even people that represent something more.
Example: The classic film Citizen Kane uses a cheap, child’s sled (named “Rosebud”) to symbolize the main character’s grief, lost childhood, and loving mother. A “Rosebud moment” is now shorthand for a moment when childhood ends.
Can you think of any literary symbols from famous stories?
24) Symbol Analysis
At the end of our study of A Raisin in the Sun, you will present analysis of Hansberry’s use of symbolism. You will focus on ONE symbol from the play.
• How does she add layers of meaning to the object, event, or person?
• What connections are created?
• What does the symbolism accomplish?
25) Symbol Hunting
Want an unfair advantage? Choose a symbol in advance and take notes when your symbol or its associates pop up.
Plants – window, sun, raisin, light, yard, garden…
Light – window, sun, plant, yard, garden…
The check – Big Walter, money, Willie Harris, ledger…
Beneatha’s hair – natural style, unstraightened, heritage, mutilation, assimilation…
Food – bread, eggs, hot oats, Alaiyo, coffee, milk…
Fire – Flaming Spear, volcano, sun, light, Prometheus…
Rugs / furnishings – doilies, cleaned, worn places, carpet
26) Takeaways: A Raisin in the Sun Preview
DO NOT PANIC! That was a lot of information in a short time. We will study these topics as we move through the play.
• The play portrays a regular family in a realistic way, but grapples with important and complex ideas about society.
• The play debuted during the Civil Rights Movement.
• A Raisin in the Sun holds an important place in theatre history and in American literature.
• Lorraine Hansberry’s use of symbolism deserves special attention.
RELATED POST: 10 A Raisin in the Sun Pre-reading Activities
Thanks for checking out A Raisin in the Sun PowerPoint Intro!
I hope that this slideshow makes it easy for you to start your study of the play on the right foot. Providing the historical context/background, previewing the drama, and introducing the learning goals pays dividends as students move through the play.
NOTE: This A Raisin in the Sun Introduction PowerPoint was created for use with the A Raisin in the Sun Unit from TeachNovels.