Ntozake Shange was born Paulette Williams in Trenton, New Jersey on October 18, 1948. In 1971 she changed her name to Ntozake Shange. Ntozake means "she who comes with her own things", in Xhosa and Shange means "she who walks like a lion", in Zulu. Her father was an Air Force surgeon and her mother was an educator and a psychiatric social worker. The Williams were upper middle class African Americans whose love of the arts contributed to an intellectually stimulating childhood for Shange and her three siblings. Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Chuck Berry, and W. E. B. Du Bois were among the frequent guests at her parents' house.
In 1966 Shange enrolled at Barnard College and separated from her husband, a law student. She attempted suicide several times. Nonetheless, she graduated cum laude in American Studies in 1970 and entered the University of Southern California at Los Angeles, where she earned a master's degree in American Studies in 1973.
While living in California and teaching humanities and women's studies courses at Mills College in Oakland, the University of California Extension, and Sonoma State College, Shange began to associate with poets, teachers, performers, and black and white feminist writers who nurtured her talents. Shange and her friends began to perform their poetry, music, and dance in and around the San Francisco Area. Shange also danced with Halifu Osumare's company. Upon leaving the company she began collaborating with Paula Moss on the poetry, music, and dance that would become for colored girls Moss and Shange left California for New York and performed for colored girls in a Soho jazz loft and later in bars in the lower East Side. Producer Woodie King Jr. saw one of these shows and helped director Oz Scott stage the choreopoem Off-Broadway at the New Federal Theatre where it ran for eight months, after which it moved to the New York Shakespeare Company's Anspacher Public Theatre, and then to the Booth Theatre.
In addition to her plays, she has written poetry, novels, and essays. She has taught at California State College, the City College of New York, the University of Houston, Rice University, Yale, Howard, and New York University. Among her many awards are an Obie, a Los Angeles Time Book Prize for Poetry, and a Pushcart Prize.
Poems - 10 in all
i live in music
People of Watts
you are sucha fool
senses of heritage
With No Immediate Cause
resurrection of the daughter
My Father Is a Retired Magician
Bocas: A Daughter's Geography
Blood Rhythms - Blood Currents - Black N' Blue Stylin'