Story courtesy of Visit Natchez
She will talk about the play’s link to Alcorn and Gloster
Dr. J. Janice Coleman, professor of English at Alcorn State University, will be the guest speaker at the Natchez Historical Society meeting Tuesday, Feb. 28, at Historical Natchez Foundation, 108 S. Commerce St., Natchez. The program starts at 5:30 p.m. and the presentation at 6 p.m.
The event, which is free to the public, is being presented in recognition of Black History Month.
Coleman will speak on the topic, “The Road to A Raisin in the Sun: The Link Between the Hansberry Family of Gloster, Mississippi, and Alcorn A & M College.” She will trace Lorraine Hansberry’s critically acclaimed play, A Raisin in the Sun (1959), to the influence of the cherished home library of her grandfather, Elden Hays Hansberry, of Gloster, Amite County, Mississippi.
“Professor Coleman is an expert in, among other things, the early history of Alcorn in the Reconstruction period as well as American literature, and specifically, ‘A Raisin in the Sun,’” said Alan Wolf, a director of NHS and chairman of its programs.
He said Coleman’s presentation will include “an illustrative quilt of her own creation and other exhibits to help vivify Hansberrys’ life and time in the larger Natchez area and beyond.”
According to Coleman, Hansberry’s grandfather graduated from Alcorn in 1891, and his two sons, William Leo Hansberry and Carl Hansberry, both attended Alcorn for some years before their interests took them to other places.
Coleman said she was working as an archivist for ASU’s sesquicentennial celebration when she became interested in what was at the core of Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun.” “That’s how I got to Gloster, where Elden is buried in the Woodlawn Cemetery,” she said.
Coleman said that her research has implications for students today, especially those at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
“My research shows that anything that students want to accomplish, they can get there from Alcorn State or from any other HBCU,” Coleman said. “William Leo Hansberry once dubbed himself ‘a Mississippi plowboy,’ but he did not allow his former self to get in the way of what he wanted to become.”
Coleman described William Leo as a scholarly man who earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Harvard and became the Father of African Studies.
Carl became a real estate developer in Chicago who brought a case all the way to the Supreme Court that centered on racial discrimination in housing and won,” Coleman said. “Taking what she learned from her uncle’s and her father’s life experiences and teachings, Lorraine wrote ‘A Raisin in the Sun.’”
Hansberry’s play is widely considered a classic of the American theater. According to The Washington Post, “it belongs in the inner circle, along with “Death of a Salesman,” “Long Day’s Journey into Night,” and “The Glass Menagerie.” The New York Times described “A Raisin in the Sun” as “the play that changed American theater forever.”
A native of Mound Bayou, Miss., Coleman is a resident of Vicksburg. Her credentials include a doctorate in English from the University of Mississippi, a Master of Science in secondary education from ASU, a Master of Arts in popular culture from Bowling Green State in Ohio, and a Bachelor of Arts in English from ASU.
For more information, call 601-492-3004.