Ntozake Shange

Ivor Griffiths, Poet, Novelist & Short Story Writer

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Ntozake Shange (pronounced En-toe-ZAHK-kay SHONG-gay) (born October 18, 1948) is an African American playwright, performance artist, and writer who is best-known for her Obie Award winning play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf.

She also wrote Betsey Brown, a novel about an African American girl who runs away from home. Among her honors and awards are fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund, and a Pushcart Prize. Shange lives in Philadelphia.


  • 1 Life
  • 2 Career
  • 3 Bibliography
  • 4 External links


Shange was born Paulette Williams in Trenton, New Jersey to an upper middle class family. Her father, Paul T. Williams, was an Air Force surgeon and her mother, Eloise Williams, was an educator and a psychiatric social worker. When she was eight, Shange's family moved to the racially segregated city of St. Louis. As a result of the Brown v. Board of Education court decision, Shange was bused to a white school where she endured racism and racist attacks. Despite this, Shange's family had a strong interest in the arts and encouraged her artistic education. Among the guests at their home were Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Chuck Berry, and W. E. B. Du Bois.

When Shange was thirteen, she returned to New Jersey, where she completed high school. In 1966 Shange enrolled at Barnard College. She graduated cum laude in American Studies, then earned a master's degree in the same field from the University of Southern California at Los Angeles. However, Shange's college years were not all pleasant. She married during her first year in college, but the marriage did not last long. Depressed over her separation and with a strong sense of bitterness and alienation, Shange attempted suicide.

In 1971, having come to terms to her depression and alienation, Shange changed her name to Ntozake Shange.


In 1975, Shange moved to New York City, where in that year her first and most well-known play was produced, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf. First produced Off-Broadway, the play soon moved onto Broadway at the Booth Theatre and won a number of awards, including the Obie Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, and the AUDELCO Award. Since then, Shange has written a number of successful plays, including an adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children (1980), which won an Obie Award.

In 2003, Shange wrote and oversaw the production of Lavender Lizards and Lilac Landmines: Layla's Dream while serving as a visiting artist at the University of Florida, Gainesville.



  • For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf (1975) Nominated for a Tony Award, Grammy Award, and Emmy Award.
  • A Photograph: Lovers-in-Motion (1977) Produced Off-Broadway at the Public Theatre.
  • Boogie Woogie Landscapes (1979) First produced at Frank Silvera's Writers' Workshop in New York, then on Broadway at the Symphony Space Theatre.
  • Spell #7 (1979) Produced Off-Broadway at Joseph Papp's New York Shakespeare Festival Public Theatre.
  • Black and White Two Dimensional Planes (1979).
  • Mother Courage and Her Children (1980) Produced off-Broadway at the Public Theatre. Winner of a 1981 Obie Award.
  • Three for a Full Moon (1982)
  • Bocas (1982) First produced at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles.
  • Educating Rita (1982) First produced at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta.
  • From Okra to Greens/A Different Kinda Love Story (1983).
  • Three views of Mt. Fuji (1987) First produced in San Francisco at the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre; first produced in New York at the New Dramatists.
  • Daddy Says (1989).


  • Melissa & Smith (1976).
  • Natural Disasters and Other Festive Occasions (1977)
  • Nappy Edges (1978)
  • A Daughter's Geography (1983)
  • From Okra to Greens (1984)
  • Ridin' the Moon in Texas: Word Paintings (St. Martin's Press, 1987)
  • The Love Space Demands (a continuing saga) (St. Martin's Press, 1987)


  • Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo: A Novel (1982)
  • See No Evil: Prefaces, Essays & Accounts, 1976-1983 (1984)
  • The Black Book (1986, with Robert Mapplethorpe).
  • Liliane: A Novel (1995)
  • If I Can Cook You Know God Can (1998)
  • African American Literature Book Club: Ntozake Shange page
  • Rutgers University-Sponsored Ntozake Shange, "Women of Color/Women of Word" page
  • Persondata
    NAME Shange, Ntozake
    ALTERNATIVE NAMES Paulette Williams (Birth name)
    SHORT DESCRIPTION Contemporary African American writer and performance artist
    DATE OF BIRTH October 18, 1948
    PLACE OF BIRTH Trenton, New Jersey, United States
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