Carl Augustus Hansberry

Carl Augustus Hansberry (April 30, 1895 – March 17, 1946) was an American real estate broker, inventor[citation needed] and political activist. He was also the father of award-winning playwright Lorraine Hansberry and the great-grandfather of actress Taye Hansberry.

Life and careerEdit

Carl Augustus Hansberry was born on April 30, 1895[1] in Gloster, Amite County, Mississippi.[2][3] He was a son of Elden Hayes and Pauline (Bailey) Hansberry.[4] He and his older brother, William Leo Hansberry, were raised by their stepfather, Elijah Washington.[5] As a young man, he moved to Chicago.[6]

He married Nannie Louise Perry of Columbia, Tennessee, the daughter of George Perry, a minister, and his wife, Charlotte "Lottie" Organ.[7][8] Together Carl and Nannie had four children:

  • Carl Augustus Hansberry, Jr. (February 19, 1920 – January 12, 1997)[9]
  • Perry Holloway Hansberry (June 4, 1921 – December 18, 2002)[9][10]
  • Mamie Louise Hansberry (born April 2, 1923[11]), former wife of journalist Vincent Tubbs and grandmother of actress Taye Hansberry
  • Lorraine Vivian Hansberry (May 19, 1930 – January 12, 1965)[12]

When his youngest child was eight, Hansberry bought a house in the Washington Park subdivision of Chicago that was restricted to whites. The family was met with intense hostility by local residents. The Kenwood Improvement Association filed a mandatory injunction for the Hansberry family to vacate their home which was granted by a Circuit Court judge and upheld on appeal by the Illinois Supreme Court. Hansberry challenged the ruling, which led to the landmark U. S. Supreme Court case Hansberry v. Lee (1940). In a unanimous opinion rendered November 12, 1940, the court rejected the specific restrictive covenant impacting the Hansberry family without ruling on the constitutionality of restrictive residential covenants in general.[13][14]

In 1940, Hansberry made an unsuccessful bid for Congress. In the wake of that loss and frustrated by the pervasive racism in the United States, he made plans to move his family to Mexico. While visiting Mexico, Hansberry suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died there on March 17, 1946. He is buried at the Burr Oak Cemetery in Cook County, Illinois.

The family's experience with racial segregation would serve as the inspiration for his daughter Lorraine Hansberry's award-winning play, A Raisin in the Sun.


  1. ^ World War I Draft Registration Card, Roll #1439759
  2. ^ World War I Draft Registration Card (states place of birth as only Amite County, Mississippi), Roll #1439759
  3. ^ World War I Draft Registration Card (for brother William Leo Hansberry states place of birth as Gloster, Amite County, Mississippi), Roll #1685072
  4. ^ Biography of brother William Leo Hansberry
  5. ^ 1910 U.S. Census, Amite County, Mississippi, household of Elijah Washington
  6. ^ World War I Draft Registration Card (shows place of residence as 5008 Wabash Avenue, Chicago, IL as June 5, 1917), Roll #1439759
  7. ^ Nannie Louise Hansberry, death certificate (1966), #003566, State of California, Department of Public Health, Sacramento, CA
  8. ^ 1900 U.S. Census, Columbia, Maury County, Tennessee, household of George W. Perry
  9. ^ a b Social Security Death Index
  10. ^ Perry Holloway Hansberry, death certificate (2002), #0053346, State of California, Department of Public Health, Sacramento, California
  11. ^ State of IL birth certificate #6020136 as "Maurine Hansberry"
  12. ^ Carter, Stephen R. "Commitment amid Complexity: Lorraine Hansberry's Life in Action." MELUS 7(3), Autumn 1980. Accessed 25 December 2013
  13. ^ Fuller, Hoyt W. (December 1961). Johnson, John H. (ed.). "Earl B. Dickerson:warrior and statesman". Ebony. Chicago, Illinois: Johnson Publishing Company, Inc. 17 (2): 153.
  14. ^ Wilkins, Roy, ed. (December 1940). "Supreme court upsets Chicago covenant case". Crisis. New York, New York: Crisis Publishing Company, Inc. 47 (11): 390.