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Picture of To Be Young, Gifted and Black
To Be Young, Gifted and Black

This tribute to writer Lorraine Hansberry and her belief in the human spirit premiered at the Cherry Lane Theater in New York City on January 2, 1969, four years after the playwright's untimely death at age 34. Rita Gardner, Cicely Tyson and Janet League were featured performers. To Be Young, Gifted and Black is performed on a bare stage with an ensemble of seven actors who portray various facets of Hansberry's life, from her childhood on Chicago's South Side to the late 1950s and her emergence as a writer of significance in the days leading up to the civil rights movement. The play's producers included Harry Belafonte and Hansberry's husband, Robert Nemiroff.

Cicely Tyson's prolific career includes acclaimed roles in such dramatic works as The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Welcome to Success: The Marva Collins Story, The Women of Brewster Place, Sounder, Heat Wave, Cry Freedom and Roots. She portrayed Coretta Scott King in the television docudrama King. Cofounder of The Dance Theater of Harlem and winner of two Emmys, seven NAACP Image Awards and numerous other honors, Cicely Tyson -- like Lorraine Hansberry -- has spent most of her public career as an outspoken proponent of human rights and racial harmony.

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