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NTOZAKE SHANGE: American Playwrite and Poet

Poet, performance artist, playwright, and novelist Ntozake Shange was born Paulette Williams on October 18, 1948, in Trenton, New Jersey. She earned a BA in American studies from Barnard College in 1970 and then left New York to pursue graduate studies at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles. It was during this time that she took the name “Ntozake” (“she who comes into her own things”) “Shange” (“she who walks like a lion”) from the Zulu dialect Xhosa. She received an MA in American studies from USC in 1973.

Shange’s many books of poetry include Ridin’ the Moon in Texas: Word Paintings (St. Martin’s Press, 1987); From Okra to Greens (Coffee House Press, 1984); A Daughter’s Geography (St. Martin’s Press, 1983); Three Pieces (St. Martin’s Press, 1981), which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; Nappy Edges (St. Martin’s Press, 1978); Natural Disasters and Other Festive Occasions (Heirs, 1977); and Melissa & Smith (Bookslinger, 1976). FOR MORE

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 with the lions,” from the Xhosa language. She graduated from the University of Southern California in 1973.  FOR MORE

Ntozake Shange (/ˌɛntˈzɑːki ˈʃɑːŋɡ/ EN-toh-ZAH-kee SHAHNG-gay;[1] October 18, 1948 – October 27, 2018) was an American playwright and poet.[2] As a Black feminist, she addressed issues relating to race and Black power in much of her work. She is best known for her Obie Award-winning play, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf (1975). She also penned novels including Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo (1982), Liliane (1994), and Betsey Brown (1985), about an African-American girl run away from home.  FOR MORE


art and education, BLACK LIVES, gender equity, women leaders, women writers, womens history

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