Pioneering Writer Ntozake Shange Dies at 70


Award-winning playwright and poet Ntozake Shange died Saturday.

Shange’s family made a statement on Twitter, saying the playwright passed away peacefully in her sleep.


Shange was perhaps best known for “for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf,” a series of poetic monologues that tell the stories of seven women who have suffered oppression. In a 1995 interview in Mother Jones, she said “I write for young girls of color, for girls who don’t even exist yet, so that there is something there for them when they arrive.”

The playwright was no stranger to New York Public Radio. In a conversation with host Terrance McKnight in 2010, Shange said for colored girls still has meaning for women more than 35 years later.

“It’s still very relevant,” she said. “It’s more relevant than it was in the 70s.”

In a New York Public Library event produced by WNYC in 1988, Shange talked about her inspiration as a storyteller. She recounted a childhood heavily influenced by her family in New York.

“My family moved around a lot, so I don’t have any friends that I had all my life,” she said. “But I did have annual trips back to Queens.”

It was on those trips, Shange said, that her family would gather and eat food and tell stories until dawn.

“These stories would go on until eight or nine in the morning, and that’s how I was raised,” she said.

Shange was 70 years old. Her family said information on memorial services will be released at a later date.

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