Shange, Ntozake.

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Playwright and author Ntozake Shange was born Paulette L. Williams on October 18, 1948 in Trenton, New Jersey to Paul T. Williams, an air force surgeon, and Eloise Williams, an educator and psychiatric social worker. Her family regularly hosted artists like Dizzy Gillespie, Paul Robeson, and W.E.B. DuBois at their home. Shange graduated cum laude with her B.S. degree in American Studies from Barnard College in New York City in 1970. While pursuing her M.A. degree in American Studies from the University of Southern California, Shange began to associate with feminist writers, poets and performers. In 1971, she adopted her new name,Ntozake, meaning "she who comes with her own things," andShange, meaning "she who walks like a lion," from the Xhosa dialect of Zulu. She graduated from the University of Southern California in 1973.

Upon joining Malifu Osumare's dance company, Shange met Paula Moss, and their subsequent collaborations led to the invention of Shange's work, the choreopoemfor colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf. The work was initially produced Off-Broadway in 1975 at the New Federal Theatre in New York City, moving to the Anspacher Public Theatre in 1976. After premiering on Broadway at the Booth Theatre later that same year, the play went on to win the Obie Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, and the AUDELCO Award. Originally conceived as a choreopoem, it has been published in book form, and adapted into a stage play. In 2010, Tyler Perry wrote, produced and directed the film adaptation,For Colored Girls, starring Whoopi Goldberg, Phylicia Rashad, Janet Jackson, and Loretta Devine.

In 1978, Shange releasedNappy Edges, a collection of fifty poems celebrating the voices of defiantly independent women. In 1979, she produced theThree Piecestrilogy of choreopoems, which won theLos Angeles TimesBook Prize. In 1982, Shange released her first novel,Sassafrass, Cypress, and Indigo, which she followed withBetsy Brownin 1985 andLiliane: Resurrection of the Daughterin 1994.Shange's work also appeared inThe Black Scholar,Yardbird,Ms.,Essencemagazine,The Chicago Tribune,VIBE, andThird-World Women. In addition to poetry, novels, essays, and screenplays, Shange published four books for children:Whitewash(1997); the tribute to Muhammad Ali,Float Like a Butterfly(2002);Ellington Was Not a Street(2003);Daddy Says(2003); andCoretta Scott(2009). She also served on the faculty of the Department of Drama at the University of Houston.

An Emmy, Tony, and Grammy award nominee, Shange received an NDEA fellowship in 1974, two Obie Awards, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1981, the Paul Robeson Achievement Award in 1992, the Living Legend Award from the National Black Theatre Festival in 1993. She was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.

Shange passed away on October 27, 2018.

Ntozake Shange was interviewed byThe HistoryMakerson September 12, 2016 and February 1, 2017.

From The HistoryMakers™ biography:

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf International Women Playwrights Conference Collection. Biographical information, correspondence, 2 (b&w) photographs, articles & flyers & programs regarding play "Betsy Brown" and 1 airline ticket to S.I.W.P.C., relating to playwright Ntozake Shange, USA. University of Guelph
creatorOf Toronto Workshop Productions Archives (University of Guelph). For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf / by Ntozake Shange ; directed by Charles Gray, 1984 - house program. University of Guelph
referencedIn Jordan, June, 1936-2002. Videotape collection of June Jordan [videorecording]. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Taylor, Regina, 1960-. Urban Zulu mambo / by Regina Taylor, Suzan Lori-Parks, Ntozake Shange, and Kia Corthron ; conceived and performed by Regina Taylor , 2001. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Jordan, June, 1936-2002. Papers, 1936-2002 (inclusive), 1954-2002 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Shange, Ntozake. Spell #7 / by Ntozake Shange. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Betsko, Kathleen. Betsko-Koenig Women Playwrights Collection 1955-1986. Smith College, Neilson Library
referencedIn Moss, Paula. [Programs and announcements] New York Public Libraries for the Performing Arts, Dance Collection
creatorOf Frank Silvera Writers Workshop. Frank Silvera Writers Workshop records, 1973-1992. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Pietri, Pedro Juan, 1943-2004. Papers 1939-2004 ; bulk: 1970-2002. Centro de Estudios Puertorriquenos
referencedIn Wallace, Michele. Michele Wallace papers, ca. 1940-2004. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Shange, Ntozake. For colored girls who have considered suicide, when the rainbow is enuf : a choreopoem / Ntozake Shange. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
creatorOf Toronto Workshop Productions Archives. For Coloured Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf / by Ntozake Shange ; technical drawings by Michael Nemirsky, 1984. University of Guelph
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf The HistoryMakers Video Oral History with Ntozake Shange The HistoryMakers
Relation Name
associatedWith Frank Silvera Writers Workshop. corporateBody
associatedWith International Women Playwrights Conference Collection. corporateBody
associatedWith Jordan, June, 1936-2002. person
associatedWith Moss, Paula. person
associatedWith Pietri, Pedro Juan, 1943-2004. person
associatedWith Taylor, Regina, 1960- person
associatedWith Toronto Workshop Productions Archives. corporateBody
associatedWith Toronto Workshop Productions Archives (University of Guelph) corporateBody
associatedWith Wallace, Michele person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Trenton (N.J.)
Bowie (Md.)
New York (N.Y.)


Birth 1948

Birth 19481018

Death 20181027



Ark ID: w6zp4898

SNAC ID: 52677832