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Ntozake Shange (1948–2018), pioneering black feminist poet and playwright

by Kirk Fox

Wrote the influential play ‘For Colored Girls’ which won an Obie Award.

Ntozake Shange was a pioneering black feminist poet and playwright who wrote “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf.” The Tony-nominated play is about the racism, sexism, and violence, including rape, experienced by seven black women. Many future writers were influenced by the groundbreaking 1975 work that appeared on Broadway for more than 700 performances.

In 2010, the play was adapted into a movie starring Janet Jackson and Kerry Washington.


Shange published poetry collections, children’s books, novels, and essays. The talented writer taught at multiple colleges including Brown University and DePaul University.

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Died: Saturday, October 27, 2018 (Who else died on October 27?)

Details of death: Died at the age of 70 at an assisted living center in Maryland, according to her daughter, Savannah Shange

Is there someone you miss whose memory should be honored? Here are some ways.

Notable Quote: “I am one of these people who have never condescended to an audience, and I have never not had one. I was trained by black poets before I was twenty-one, I was lucky enough to have that. And I know the significance of a national art and popular art. I have never intended to do anything but that, because it wasn’t important to me to do anything but that.” —1991 interview with Serena Anderlini, University of Kansas

What people said about her: “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.”  —Her daughter, Savannah Shange, a professor of anthropology at the University of California at Santa Cruz

Full obituary: Los Angeles Times

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