To Be Young Gifted and Black

by Lorraine Hansberry

Ladies and gentlemen, Fellow Writers: I have had the opportunity to read three of the winning compositions in this United Negro College Fund contest--and it is clear I am addressing fellow writers indeed.


Apart from anything else, I wanted to be able to come here and speak with you on this occasion because you are young, gifted and black. ... I, for one, can think of no more dynamic combination that a person might be.

The Negro writer stands surrounded by the whirling elements of this world. He stands neither on the fringe nor utterly involved: the prime observer waiting poised for inclusion.

O, the things that we have learned in this unkind house that we have to tell the world about!

Despair? Did someone say despair was a question in the world? Well then, listen to the sons of those who have known little else if you wish to know the resiliency of this thing you would so quickly resign to mythhood, this thing called the human spirit. ...

Life? Ask those who have tasted of it in pieces rationed out by enemies.

Love? Ah, ask the troubadors who come from those who have loved when all reason pointed to the uselessness and foolhardiness of love. Perhaps we shall be the teachers when it is done. Out of the depths of pain we have thought to be our sole heritage in this world--O, we know about love!

And that is why I say to you that, though it be a thrilling and marvelous thing to be merely young and gifted in such times, it is doubly so, doubly dynamic--to be young, gifted and black.

Look at the world that awaits you!

Write if you will: but write about the world as it is and as you think it ought to be and must be--if there is to be a world, the beginning of writing and talking--but write to a point. Work hard at it, care about it.

Write about our people: tell their story. You have something glorious to draw on begging for attention. Don't pass it up. Use it.

Good luck to you. This Nation needs your gifts.

Perfect them!

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