The action takes place in Chicago in the 1951.
Acte IFramed by the back porches, fire-escapes and blankly staring tenement windows, the Southside ghetto - its youth workers, women, Lindy-hoppers at a party, a drunk wending his way home - comes to life in a powerful street ballet that culminates in the riveting portrait of a pusher finding his victim while members of the community look on helplessly. This world provides the pulse, heartbeat and framework of the Younger family's existence. And though in it exists joy, lightness, laughter and hope, it is, nonetheless, a ghetto: a world of such soul - and body - grinding oppression that survival sometimes requires escape.
In the early morning at the Younger apartment, Ruth rouses her son, Travis while she calls her husband to breakfast. Walter Lee, desperate to leave his job as a chauffeur and join the "successful" members of his society, thinks and talks of nothing else except the imminent arrival of his father's life-insurance cheque - and the opportunity it provides him to go into business as partner in a liquor store. Ruth reminds him that his mother is absolutely set against the selling of liquor, but Walter tries to get his wife to "sell" Mama on the idea. The more he persists, the more Ruth retreats into her morning chores. Frustrated and angry, he tells her a man needs for a woman to back him up and scathingly remarks on how rarely women seem to care about their husband's dreams.
Travis presents another problem: he needs fifty cents for school. Ruth tells him bluntly that she doesn't have the money but then, softening as he heads for the door in disappointment, she succeeds in conveying to him much more than fifty cents of motherly love.
On the way to work Walter Lee encounters other members of his community likewise scurrying frantically to get where they're going - which, in his eyes, is nowhere. Later, driving his employer about the city, Walter grows increasingly incense at his position in life - and at last bolts from the car to act on his liquor-store deal.
Mama comes home from her job as a domestic. Clearly her enormous warmth and strength have given the family solid, if not always "modern" values and roots. It is her dream to get out of the cramped tenement quarters and into a house of their own - a dream she confides to her small, struggling potted plant.
At a local bar, Walter Lee celebrates his deal for the liquor store with Bobo Jones, one of his new partners-to-be, and Bobo's girlfriend. The third partner in the deal, Willie Harris, arrives and prematurely - in the absence of the money - the deal is sealed.
Beaneatha Younger, a rebellious young college student seriously intent on becoming a doctor and just as ardent about the kind of values she wants for the world, is also serious about Asagai, an African exchange student. For her, he symbolises the intriguing continent from which her people came. At first teasingly, then tenderly, Asagai explains the meaning of the nickname he has given her as she stand enraptured by the images he creates of his country. (Alaiyo).
Walter Lee, inebriated, arrives home with the partnership papers signed and notarised to find Beneatha, awaiting Asagai, engaged in an exhilarating, if largely hypothetical, "African" dance. Learning that the cheque has come, he joins his sister in a moment of wild abandon in which he sees himself as a tribal chieftain, supreme in his own land and time, leading warriors in a victory dance. When Beneatha leaves with Asagai, Ruth again tries to caution Walter that Mama might not see things his way. In bitter anger, Walter flings her from him then heads for the streets. Ruth bars his way and recalls the closeness they once shared, asking what has become of their lives.
Their reconciliation is interrupted by Mama, who announces that she has bought a house in Clybourne Park, a white neighbourhood. When she turns to Walter Lee for his approval, he replies with bitter cynicism that she is so smart, so right and so righteous that she has done him "right out of my dreams tonight" and storms away from the house.
Acte IIWalter has not been heard from for three days. Mama, Ruth and Travis join their church congregation in a mighty gospel song.
Mama goes to search for her son and finds him in a bar. She tells him she has been wrong - that she "has been doing to you like the rest of the world." She places an envelope of money before him, explaining that she had only put a small down-payment on the house, and asks him to put three thousand in the bank for Beneatha's medical schooling - the rest is Walter's to do with as he sees fit. As she leaves, he stands, moved by the depth of her love, then clutches the money with exhilaration.
Although the Youngers, as a family generally look forward to the new move, Travis is not so sure. Alone, he takes a last, fond look at the old neighbourhood. Walter returns home and, in a private moment with his son, tells Travis of his dreams for them both.
While packing to move to the new home, Walter Lee and Ruth seem to regain something of the "Sweet Time" they once had. In a moment of high hilarity, they and Beneatha are interrupted by Mr. Karl Lindner, a white representative from the Clybourne Park "Improvement Association," who offers to but the house back.
When Mama returns, Walter, Ruth amd Beneatha announce that she had a visitor and, assuming roles of the hypothetical "Welcoming Committee" assure her how enlightened and understanding "we in Clybourne Park" have become about the Black-White relationship.
In a spirit of gaiety, the Youngers,drawn together, resume packing. Shock follows, however, with the arrival of Bobo bearing news that the Willie, the senior member of the partnership, has run off with the money. In the face of catastrophe, Walter tears from the house, then returns to inform the family that he has called Mr Lindner to accept the Association's offer to buy back their house. He's "gonna give him a show," tell him what he wants to hear; tell him anything - just to get the family's money back. He shouts that this is the way the world is - this is America where everything has a price. "You people want that neighbourhood they way you want it? Then pay for it!".
As Walter retreats, Beneatha declares him "not a man … and no brother of mine!" But Mama, understanding his anguish, demands that her daughter "measure him right. Make sure you done taken into account what hills and valleys he come through to get to wherever he is".
Lindner arrives and Walter Lee, in front of his family and with his father's memory to spur him on, rises to the occasion and says his family has decided to move into the new house. After Lindner leaves, the moving men and neighbours start moving the Youngers. Whatever they must face in their new home, once thing is certain: who they are and what they stand for is intact. As the others depart, Mama stands alone for one last look at the apartment that has held so many years of her life.