Lorraine Hansberry is having a New York moment. A Broadway revival of her play A Raisin in the Sun starring Denzel Washington starts previews on March 8. An exhibit entitled A Raisin in the Sun: Lorraine Hansberry’s Dream on Broadway is on view at The New York Public Library’s main branch in Manhattan. And across the river in Brooklyn, Twice Militant: Lorraine Hansberry’s Letters to “The Ladder” can be seen at the Brooklyn Museum.
For more than 50 years, the term “jazz dance” has been bandied about among the dance community, with no one really agreeing upon its definition. It has been used to describe everything from Jack Cole’s slinky Hollywood routines and Bob Fosse’s quirky Broadway choreography to improvised rhythm tap and such African American vernacular dances as the Charleston and B-boying.
Chances are, you might recognize Thelonious Monk’s “Round Midnight.” A perfect channeling of closing-time blues and noir meditation, it’s the most recorded song ever composed by a jazz musician. It’s responsible for Monk’s tunes having been set down more than any other jazzman except Duke Ellington, whom Monk unsurprisingly cited as a primary influence.
He was born Malcolm Little, the son of a Baptist minister murdered by white supremacists when Malcolm was only four years old; grew up Detroit Red, a zoot-suited, numbers-running hustler and pimp with enemies lined up from Detroit to Boston; answered to number 22843—or sometimes, maybe proudly, to the nickname “Satan”—during his six years in a Massachusetts prison; emerged as Malcolm X, a born-again Muslim follower of Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam who preached a Back-to-Africa agenda to black assemblies in impoverished Harlem; and by the time of his death 49 years ago today, was El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, a name taken upon completion of his pilgrimage to Mecca from which he returned to teach a new message of racial co-existence. Malcolm X’s continuous reinventing of himself is what kept him alive, and it’s also what got him killed.
February is Black History Month, and what better way to celebrate than with a book? If you’ve never read Native Son by Richard Wright then that’s a great place to start. The novel sold 2,000 copies a day when it was first published in 1940, “making Wright the first best-selling black writer in the country.” The scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. has even called Native Son the “single most influential shaping force in black literary history.”