Ntozake Shange, ‘For Colored Girls’ Playwright, Dies at 70

Ntozake Shange (Credit: Simon & Schuster)

Ntozake Shange, a playwright, poet, performer and novelist who wrote the award-winning play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf, died Saturday. She was 70.

“To our extended family and friends, it is with sorrow that we inform you that our loved one, Ntozake Shange, passed away peacefully in her sleep in the early morning of October 27, 2018,” her family tweeted Saturday afternoon. “Memorial information/details will follow at a later date.”

The writer’s daughter, Savannah Shange, told The Associated Press her mother died at an assisted living facility in Bowie, Maryland. She suffered several strokes since 2004.

Shange was best known for her Obie Award-winning and Tony nominated play, For Colored Girls — a series of interwoven poems set to music in an art form she described as “choreopoem.”

Her other 15 plays include A Photograph: A Study of Cruelty (1977), Boogie Woogie Landscapes (1977), Spell No. 7 (1979) and Black and White Two Dimensional Planes (1979).

For Colored Girls
“For Colored Girls” opened off Broadway in 1975.

For Colored Girls debuted at a public theater in Manhattan in 1975, and moved to Broadway the following year. It addresses racism, sexism, and rape experienced by seven 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,” Savannah Shange told The Associated Press about her mother.

Tyler Perry adapted the play into an award-winning 2010 feature film starring Kimberly Elise, Janet Jackson, Loretta Devine, Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Whoopi Goldberg, Macy Gray and Kerry Washington.

Washington tweeted a tribute to Shange on Saturday, writing: “So grateful for her vision and voice.”

On Sunday, Perry posted a picture of Shange with the cast of the film, For Colored Girls.

“Thank you Ntozake Shange for your beautiful and incredible gifts,” the director captioned his Instagram post. “May God bless and rest your soul. For Colored Girls who have used their gifts to change the world.”

Born Paulette Williams in Trenton, New Jersey in 1948, Shange graduated from Barnard College and received a master’s degree from the University of Southern California, according to her website.

In addition to her daughter, she is survived by her sisters, fellow playwright Ifa Bayeza, Bisa Williams, brother Paul T. Williams, Jr. and a granddaughter, Harriet Shange-Watkins.