Ntozake Shange

Ntozake Shange, a Black feminist poet and playwright, known most notably for her 1976 Tony Award-nominated choreopoem, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf,  died on Oct. 27 at an assisted-living community in Bowie, Maryland.

According to the Star Tribune, the 70-year-old had suffered multiple strokes in recent years but was still creating new work before she passed in her sleep Saturday morning.

The poet was born Paulette Williams in Trenton, New Jersey, on Oct. 18, 1948. Her father, Paul. T. Williams, was a surgeon; her mother, Eloise Owens Williams, was a professor of social work.

She took up the Zulu names Ntozake, which means “She who comes with her own things,” and Shange, which translates to “She who walks like a lion.”



Shange is survived by her sister, Ifa Bayeza, and her daughter, Savannah Shange, a professor of anthropology at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

In a statement, the author’s daughter spoke of her legacy: “[My mom] spoke for, and in fact embodied, the ongoing struggle of Black women and girls to live with dignity and respect in the context of systemic racism, sexism and oppression.”

For Colored Girls has played nearly 750 performances on Broadway since 1976. It is the second play written by an African-American woman to make it to the major stage; A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry was first.

Ntozake Shange, Playwright stands in front of marquee featuring the title of her book and play, 1977. (Moneta Sleet, Jr./EBONY Collection; Johnson Publishing Archive)

According to her obituary, Shange’s father said people misconstrued the pro-female place to be anti-male. “Pro-female and anti-male are not the same things,” he said.

In 2010, For Colored Girls was adapted into a feature film by Tyler Perry. The ensemble cast included Whoopi Goldberg, Janet Jackson, Phylicia Rashad, Thandie Newton, Macy Gray, Loretta Divine, Anika Noni Rose, Kimberly Elise and Kerry Washington.

The play was seen as a rite of passage for many Black women. Prominent figures including author Terry McMillan, director Ava DuverNay and filmmaker dream hampton took to social media to mourn and celebrate Shange’s life and the impact of her work.

https://twitter.com/MsTerryMcMillan/status/1056314023128457217?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1056314023128457217&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.essence.com%2Fculture%2Fblack-women-twitter-ntozake-shange%2F



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