- Born Paulette Williams in Trenton, New Jersey. Decided in 1971 to take a Zulu name,
Ntozake ("she who comes with her own things") and Shange ("she who walks
like a lion") Moved to St. Louis at the age of eight.
- Oldest of four children in an upper middle-class family: her father, a surgeon; her
mother, a psychiatric social worker and educator.
- Attempted suicide several times as a teenager.
- Educated at Bernard College (B.A., 1970) and University of Southern California (M.A.,
- In the 70s, taught humanities, women's studies, and Afro-American studies at Sonoma
State College, Mills College, and University of California Extension and later creative
writing at City College of New York.
- Best known as a playwright. Her choreopoem For Colored Girls Who Have Considered
Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf opened in New York in 1975. Had a long run on
Broadway and won many awards, including the Obie in 1977.
- Also has written short stories and poems, performed as a dancer and poet, and given
numerous reading and lectures. Currently working on a play with Ladysmith Black Mambazo,
which will open at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago.
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf (1975)
Nappy Edges, poems (1978)
Three Plays (1981)
Sassafras, Cypress & Indigo: a novel (1982)
A Daughter's Geography (1983)
Betsey Brown (1985)
Lilliane: Resurrection of the Daughter (1994)
Critical Sources and Reviews
- For reviews of the novel, see The New York
Times, May 12, 1985. ("Life Abounding in St. Louis" by Nancy Willard,
[book archive search: "Betsey Brown"]
- Interview with
author in MotherJones.
- For further biographical information, see Contemporary Authors, vol. 85-88 or the
- In print: Ten Is the Age of Darkness: The Black Bildungsroman by Greta LeSeur.
Retired Discussion Series