Student Theses

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)






Hansberry’s intent to centralize the Black American family while simultaneously addressing divisive topics of race and gender positioned Raisin as a prescient, continuously relevant work that is open for interpretation for years to come. With this intent in mind, critics acclaimed Raisin and hailed it as a universal play for every theatergoer to enjoy. However, this enduring sentiment of Raisin as “universal” is a construct created by the predominantly-white theater industry. This perceived universality is dependent on the audience’s ability to find entertainment value in the story, even if the idea of only deriving amusement from the story undermines Hansberry’s intent of the play being read with specificity to the struggles of the Black community. The subversion of this intent situates the play as universal from the perspective of white audiences. This lens essentially forces complicity with the racist white agenda because it detracts from the play’s ability and original purpose to expose the struggles of the Black community. White audiences render the play as a drama meant for simple amusement rather than a work meant to incite action against housing discrimination, societal racism, and economic disparities among Black individuals.

By investigating the definition assigned to universal, as well as focusing on the analyses provided by other scholars, I will enter the conversation among the scholarship by examining the enduring discourse from reviews spanning from the time of the initial production of Raisin to 2019 reviews. I intend to expose how the deliberate misinterpretation of the play exemplifies an exertion of white power over the work that renders Black voices silent. I will first explore how the label of universality by the white theater subverts the attention Hansberry calls to the history of white racist terror. Then, I will explain how this mindset exacerbates racial silence and barriers, and perpetuates the erasure of Black culture. Ultimately, this enduring audience reception reduces Hansberry’s Raisin to a form of entertainment rather than a work meant to invoke Black culture and inspire action to dismantle racial barriers.



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