Born in Trenton, New Jersey, on October 18, 1948, Paulette Linda Williams, who changed her name to Ntozake Shange in 1971, graduated from Barnard College and received her master's degree from the University of Southern California. She studied African American dance and gave many poetry readings in California. Shange taught at Sonoma Mills College in California from 1972 to 1975. Her play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf, a choreopoem, was first produced in California after her dance-drama Sassafrass was presented in 1976. For Colored Girls was later produced in New York City, where it had a long run before going on to other cities. The production was nominated for an Emmy, a Grammy, and a Tony award. For Colored Girls has been published twice as a book, and Shange's book Three Pieces (1981) contains Spell #7, A Photograph: Lovers in Motion (1979), and Boogie WoogieLandscapes (1979). Shange's other books include Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo (1982), Nappy Edges (1978), a book of poetry, her novels Betsey Brown (1985), Liliane: Resurrection of the Daughter (1994), and children's novels Daddy Says (2003), Coretta Scott (2009) and the novel, Some Sing, Some Cry, co-authored with Ifa Bayeza.
A version of Betsey Brown for the stage, with music by the jazz trumpeter and composer Baikida Carroll, opened the American Music Theater Eestival in Philadelphia on March 25, 1989. For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf was revived on Broadway in 1995 and made into a movie in 2010 by African American film director Tyler Perry.
Shange has received awards such as the Obie Award in 1981 for For Colored Girls, a Guggenheim Eellowship, and the National Black Theater Eestival Award in 1993.
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