“A Raisin in the Sun”: The Quest for the American Dream

People of all backgrounds live in America and come to America dreaming of social, educational, economical opportunities as well as political and religious freedoms. Consequently, the notion of "The American Dream" has appeal and meaning to most of your students. Ask them to define "The American Dream" and you will probably become engaged in a lively discussion.

Read the play A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry with your students and you can enhance your discussion of "The American Dream" even while you and your students explore how the social, educational, economical and political climate of the 1950s affected African Americans' quest for "The American Dream."

In this lesson, the critical reading and analysis of the play is complemented with a close examination of biographical and historical documents that students use as the basis for creating speeches, essays and scripts.

This lesson can be taught as part of a unit on American Literature and the Civil Rights Movement. It works especially well as an introduction to the EDSITEment lessons "Let Freedom Ring: The Life and Legacy of Martin Luther King," "Dr. King's Dream," and "Ordinary People, Ordinary Places: The Civil Rights Movement."

Guiding Questions

How does the play A Raisin in the Sun mirror the social, educational, political, and economical climate of the 1950s and how does the play illustrate the impact this climate had on African Americans' quest for "The American Dream?

Learning Objectives

After completing this lesson, students will be able to: Develop a definition of "The American Dream"

Recognize the historical setting of the play A Raisin in the Sun

Identify various forms of discrimination against African Americans in the Jim Crow era

Identify and analyze specific biographical and historical documents

Read and compare two poems by Langston Hughes

Engage in a literary analysis of the play A Raisin in the Sun by analyzing characterization, plot, setting, figurative language, theme, and symbolism

Demonstrate an understanding of the play's themes by engaging in various writing tasks