Beneatha removes her headdress to reveal that she has cut off most of her hair, leaving only an unstraightened afro. Everyone is shocked, amazed, and slightly disappointed with Beneatha, prompting a fierce discussion between Beneatha and George about the importance of their African heritage. Beneatha goes to change for the theater, and Walter talks to George about business plans. George does not seem interested. Walter then becomes belligerent as he makes fun of George’s white shoes. Embarrassed, Ruth explains that the white shoes are part of the “college style. George obviously looks down on Walter—calling him “Prometheus”—and Walter gets even angrier at him. George and Beneatha finally leave, and Ruth and Walter then begin to fight about Walter going out, spending money, and interacting with people like Willy Harris. They do begin to make up, though, by acknowledging that a great distance has grown between them. Mama comes home and announces that she has put a down payment on a house with some of the insurance money. Ruth is elated to hear this news because she too dreams of moving out of their current apartment and into a more respectable home.
Meanwhile, Walter is noticeably upset because he wants to put all the money into the liquor store venture. They all become worried when they hear that the house is in Clybourne Park, an entirely white neighborhood. Mama asks for their understanding—it was the only house that they could afford. She feels she needs to buy the house to hold the family together. Ruth regains her pleasure and rejoices, but Walter feels betrayed, his dream swept under the table. Walter makes Mama feel guilty, saying that she has crushed his dream. He goes quickly to his bedroom, and Mama remains sitting and worrying.
Act II, Scenes II On a Friday night a few weeks later, Beneatha and George return from a date. The Youngers’ apartment is full of moving boxes. George wants to kiss Beneatha, but she does not want to kiss. Rather, she wants to engage George in a conversation about the plight of African-Americans. It seems that George wants to marry a “nice . . . simple . . . sophisticated girl. ” Mama comes in as Beneatha kicks him out. Mama asks if she had a good time with George, and Beneatha tells her that George is a “fool. ” Mama replies, “I guess you better not waste your time with no fools. Beneatha appreciates her mother’s support. Mrs. Johnson—the Youngers’ neighbor—visits. Mama and Ruth offer her food and drink, and she gladly accepts. She has come to visit to tell them about a black family who has been bombed out of their home in a white neighborhood. She is generally insensitive and unable to speak in a civil manner. She predicts that the Youngers will also be scared out of the all-white neighborhood once they move in and insults much of the family by calling them a “proud-acting bunch of colored folks. ” She then quotes Booker T. Washington, a famous African-American thinker and assimilationist.
A frustrated and angered Mama retaliates by calling him a “fool. ” Mrs. Johnson leaves the apartment. Walter’s boss calls, telling Ruth that Walter has not been to work in three days. Walter explains that he has been wandering all day (often way into the country) and drinking all night (at a bar with a jazz duo that he loves). He says that he feels depressed, despondent, and useless as the man of the family. He feels that his job is no better than a slave’s job. Mama feels guilty for his unhappiness and tells him that she has never done anything to hurt her children.
She gives him the remaining $6,500 of the insurance money, telling him to deposit $3,000 for Beneatha’s education and to keep the last $3,500. With this money, Mama says, Walter should become—and should act like he has become—the head of the family. Walter suddenly becomes more confident and energized. He talks to Travis about his plans, saying that he is going to “make a transaction” that will make them rich. Walter’s excitement builds as he describes his dream of their future house and cars, as well as Travis’s potential college education.