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Ntozake Shange

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Information about Ntozake Shange

Profile image of Ntozake Shange

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Playwright
Author

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Seafood Gumbo
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Bermuda
Favorite Quote:
Not My Will But Thy Will Expressed Through Me.

Birthplace

Born:
10/18/1948
Birth Location:
Trenton, New Jersey

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Playwright
Author

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Seafood Gumbo
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Bermuda
Favorite Quote:
Not My Will But Thy Will Expressed Through Me.

Birthplace

Born:
10/18/1948
Birth Location:
Trenton
See how Ntozake Shange is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

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,” and Shange, 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 choreopoem for 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 released Nappy Edges, a collection of fifty poems celebrating the voices of defiantly independent women. In 1979, she produced the Three Pieces trilogy of choreopoems, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. In 1982, Shange released her first novel, Sassafrass, Cypress, and Indigo, which she followed with Betsy Brown in 1985 and Liliane: Resurrection of the Daughter in 1994.Shange’s work also appeared in The Black Scholar, Yardbird, Ms., Essence magazine, The Chicago Tribune, VIBE, and Third-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); and Coretta 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 by The HistoryMakers on September 12, 2016 and February 1, 2017.

See how Ntozake Shange is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ntozake Shange's interview, session 1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ntozake Shange lists her favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ntozake Shange describes her mother's family background, pt. 1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ntozake Shange describes her mother's family background, pt. 2
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ntozake Shange talks about her mother's education and profession
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ntozake Shange describes her father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ntozake Shange talks about her father's education and profession
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ntozake Shange describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ntozake Shange lists her siblings, pt. 1
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ntozake Shange lists her siblings, pt. 2
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ntozake Shange describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ntozake Shange describes her early education
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ntozake Shange recalls her parents' celebrity guests
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ntozake Shange remembers watching the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ntozake Shange describes her early experiences of religion
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ntozake Shange recalls her early exposure to literature and film
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ntozake Shange remembers her first two poems
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ntozake Shange remembers reading African American periodicals
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ntozake Shange describes her experiences of racial discrimination at Trenton Central High School in Trenton, New Jersey
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ntozake Shange describes her decision to attend Barnard College in New York City
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ntozake Shange talks about her involvement with the Black Power movement
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ntozake Shange describes her experiences at Barnard College in New York City
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ntozake Shange talks about editing the Phat Mama literary magazine
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ntozake Shange recalls her abortion and first marriage
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ntozake Shange recalls the strike at Columbia University in New York City
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ntozake Shange recalls her professors at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ntozake Shange talks about her decision to leave graduate school
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ntozake Shange recalls the start of her writing career
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ntozake Shange remembers her aspiration to dance with the Sun Ra Arkestra
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ntozake Shange recalls starting to write 'For Colored Girls'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ntozake Shange remembers the rehearsals for the first production of 'For Colored Girls'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ntozake Shange explains the meaning of the title of 'For Colored Girls'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Ntozake Shange remembers bringing 'For Colored Girls' to New York City
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Ntozake Shange talks about the first performances of 'For Colored Girls' in New York City
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Slating of Ntozake Shange's interview, session 2
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ntozake Shange talks about the negative critical responses to 'For Colored Girls'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ntozake Shange talks about the adaptations of 'For Colored Girls'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ntozake Shange talks about Tyler Perry's film, 'For Colored Girls'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ntozake Shange talks about her work after 'For Colored Girls'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ntozake Shange talks about experiences of bipolar disorder and neuropathy
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ntozake Shange talks about her struggle with bipolar disorder
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Ntozake Shange describes her writing process
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Ntozake Shange talks about her current writing project
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ntozake Shange talks about her theatrical works
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ntozake Shange describes the plot of 'Sassafrass, Cypress and Indigo'
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ntozake Shange talks about the critical reception of her works
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ntozake Shange talks about her novel, 'Betsey Brown'
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ntozake Shange describes the plot of her novel, 'Liliane'
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Ntozake Shange talks about writing a novel with her sister, Ifa Bayeza
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Ntozake Shange talks about her books for children
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Ntozake Shange talks about her inspiration
  • Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Ntozake Shange talks about the lynching of the Newberry Six
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Ntozake Shange remembers the African American literature courses she taught
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Ntozake Shange shares her advice to aspiring poets and writers
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Ntozake Shange lists her favorite poets
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Ntozake Shange reflects upon her body of work
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Ntozake Shange describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Ntozake Shange reflects upon the status of women today
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Ntozake Shange shares her advice for black women
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Ntozake Shange reflects upon the state of African American art
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Ntozake Shange recites her poem 'Ode to Orlando'
  • Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Ntozake Shange recites poetry from her collection, 'Wild Beauty'
  • Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Ntozake Shange talks about her family
  • Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Ntozake Shange describes her parents' thoughts on her career
  • Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Ntozake Shange talks about her musical accompanists
  • Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Ntozake Shange talks about her plans for the future
  • Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Ntozake Shange reflects upon her legacy