Ntozake Shange, Playwright And Author Of “for colored girls…” Passes Away At Age 70
It is with heavy hearts we report that author, poet and playwright, Ntozake Shange has passed away. ABC News reported yesterday that her daughter, Savannah Shange, a professor of anthropology at the University of California at Santa Cruz, shared that her mother died in her sleep at an assisted living facility in Bowie, Maryland. In 2004, Shange suffered a series of strokes and in 2011 she was diagnosed with Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP), a neurological disorder characterized by progressive weakness and impaired sensory function in the legs and arms, but no word if her death was related to the disease. She was 70 years old.
Shange’s most famous work is the 1975 Tony Award-nominated and Obie-Award winning stage play for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf. The play explores themes of racism, sexism, violence and rape all experienced by seven black women. In 2010, Tyler Perry released a film adaptation of the play starring Whoopi Goldberg, Janet Jackson, Thandie Newton, Phylicia Rashad and Kerry Washington.
Her family shared the news on Twitter that Shange had “peacefully died in her sleep”:
Her daughter shared how important her mother’s work was in the representation of black women:
“She 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.”
Shange was born “Paulette Williams” in Trenton, New Jersey. Later in life she assumed the Zulu name: Ntozake which means “She who comes with her own things” and Shange which means “She who walks like a lion.”
In addition to for colored girls which played 750 performances on Broadway, Shange also created 15 other plays including “A Photograph: A Study of Cruelty” (1977), “Boogie Woogie Landscapes” (1977), “Spell No. 7” (1979) and “Black and White Two Dimensional Planes” (1979). Shange’s published works include 19 poetry collections, six novels, five children’s books and three collections of essays. A few novels in her list of works include “Sassafrass, Cypress, and Indigo” (1982) and “Some Sing, Some Cry,” with her sister, Ifa Bayeza. Her poetry collections include “I Live in Music” (1994) and “The Sweet Breath of Life: A Poetic Narrative of the African-American Family” (2004).
In addition, Shange was well-traveled in the world of higher education, graduating from Barnard College and receiving a master’s degree from the University of Southern California. She taught at Brown University, Rice University, Villanova University, DePaul University, Prairie View University and Sonoma State University. In addition, she lectured at Yale, Howard, New York University, among others.
Shange is survived by her daughter Savannah Shange, sisters Ifa Bayeza and Bisa Williams, and brother Paul T. Williams.
We are honored to have had an opportunity to share in the gifts Shange brought to the world and our thoughts are with her friends and family.