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

Example Web Site and/or Technical Equipment Required


Website Example:

Tech Product Equipment

Computer(s), Internet access

Activity Description

In this activity, students read the play A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry and explore how the social, educational, economical and political climate of the 1950s affected African Americans' quest for "The American Dream." The critical reading and analysis of the play is complemented with a close examination of biographical and historical documents that students use as the basis for creating speeches, essays and scripts.

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."


  1. Make sure that the site is not blocked at your school and that the resources can be viewed.
  2. Review the site and the available resources.
  3. Review the detailed online lesson plans
  4. Choose which of the activities you want to use in class and how you want to present them.
  5. Read To Be Young Gifted and Black by Lorraine Hansberry and make copies of the chapter titled "To Be Young Gifted and Black"(about 6 pages) to distribute to the class.
  6. Download and review the following documents:
  • "Let America Be America Again" (The Academy of American Poets)
  • "Jim Crow-Close Up" (Africans in America/part 3)
  • Written Analysis Worksheet (Digital Classroom)
  • Photo Analysis Worksheet (Digital Classroom)
  • "The Black Laws," "Lynch Law-Georgia" (American Memory Collection/African American Perspectives: The Progress of A People)


View Detailed Lesson Plans online.

Activity 1. What is the American Dream?

  1. Lead students in a discussion about the concept of "The American Dream." Record students' responses on a board or on large display paper and categorize them according to social, educational, economical, political and religious reasons.
  2. Have students write out their definition of "The American Dream".
  3. Allow students to read their definitions aloud and elaborate on them as they see fit.

Activity 2. Understanding the Playwright

  1. Have students read the excerpts "To Be Young Gifted and Black", complete the Written Document Analysis Worksheet and respond to the questions.
  2. Discuss students' responses and add any other details that you deem important based on your reading of To Be Young Gifted and Black.

Activity 3 Why a Dream Deferred?

  1. Have students read silently and aloud "Montage to A Dream Deferred" by Langston Hughes, the preface to A Raisin in the Sun. You may also link to a video clip with the poem being read through
  2. Use the Figurative Language Chart (available here as a downloadable PDF) to analyze the similes and metaphors in the poem. Have students discuss their responses to the Figurative Language Chart.
  3. Have students work in groups analyzing the poem "Let America Be America Again" from The Academy of American Poets by Langston Hughes.

Activity 4 Jim Crow Defies the Dream

  1. Hand students the photo "Jim Crow Close-Up" along with a Photo Analysis Worksheet. Have students complete the Photo Analysis Worksheet
  2. Engage students in a discussion based on their responses to the photo analysis worksheet and the questions.
  3. To further enhance students understanding of Jim Crow law as a race-based legislation, have students conduct Internet research in groups.
  4. Have each group to complete the Written Document Analysis Worksheet and answer the given questions.
  5. Allow each group to present their findings to the entire class.

Activity 5 Brown Defies Jim Crow

  1. Introduce students to background information on Brown v. Board of Education.
  2. Download and give students a copy of "Dissenting Opinion of Judge Waites Waring in Harry Briggs, Jr. et al. V. R.W. Elliot, Chairman et. al." Ask students to read pages 8, 9, and 10 and respond to the questions.
  3. Give students a copy of the Daisy Bates and Little Rock Nine Letter and complete the Written Document Analysis Worksheet.
  4. Engage students in a discussion about their responses to the document analysis worksheet.
  5. Have students write a speech speaking out against the opposition facing the Little Rock Nine. Have students read their speeches aloud.

Activity 6 The Younger’s Quest for the American Dream


  • Engage students in a dramatic reading of the play by assigning parts to each student. Be sure to rotate so that all students have a chance to read a part.
  • Have students work in groups of four analyzing the play using the focus questions and activities: Characterization, Plot/Conflict, Symbolism, Allusion, and Theme.


Teacher Tips


Have students present their answers to the above activities. Summarize the unit by having students engage in a class discussion in which they answer the unit's guiding questions:

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

    Have students demonstrate their understanding of the play's themes by responding to one of the following writing tasks:

    1. Many people believe that the Younger family made a mistake in not taking Linder's money. In a well developed essay, explain why not taking Lindner's money was the right decision or explain why the better decision would have been to let Lindner buy back the house. Connect your response to your definition of the American Dream.
    2. Rewrite the last scene of the play changing Walter's decision or add one more scene to the play. In this scene show the audience what happens to the Younger family six months after moving into the new house. Was the American Dream fulfilled, was it still deferred, or is it a work in progress.
    3. In a well developed essay, explain how Hansberry's play is an extension of the Civil Rights Movement. In what sense is the Civil Rights Movement an extension of the American Dream?

More Ways

Check "extending the lesson" for more ideas about this topic.

Select subjects and subcategories

English Language Arts

  • American Literature

Social Studies

  • U.S. History
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OTAN activities are funded by contract CN200091-A2 from the Adult Education Office, in the Career & College Transition Division, California Department of Education, with funds provided through Federal P.L., 105-220, Section 223. However, OTAN content does not necessarily reflect the position of that department or the U.S. Department of Education.