Ntozake Shange, ‘For Colored Girls’ Playwright, Dies at 70

Shange was best known for her Obie-winning choreopoem “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf”

Last Updated: October 27, 2018 @ 4:41 PM

Renowned poet and playwright Ntozake Shange died on Saturday, according to an online post on behalf of her family on Twitter. She was 70.

Shange passed away in her sleep at an assisted living facility, according to the Star-Tribune.

Shange was best known for her Obie-winning choreopoem “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf,” which was first produced Off Broadway in 1975 and then transferred to Broadway. The 20-poem series, highlighting the struggles of seven nameless African-American women, earned Shange widespread critical acclaim.

In 2010, director Tyler Perry adapted a big-screen version with an all-star cast that included Janet Jackson, Whoopi Goldberg, Phylicia Rashad, Thandie Newton, Kerry Washington and Macy Gray. It had also been adapted for television in 1982 by PBS.

She continued to write prolifically in the following four decades, penning another 13 plays, half-dozen novels, and nearly 20 poetry books — although her later work never eclipsed the success of “For Colored Girls.” After dealing with the effects of several strokes in recent years, Shange appeared to be writing once again, and tweeted earlier this week about an upcoming book signing in Washington, D.C.

“Zake was a woman of extravagance and flourish, and she left quickly without suffering,” Ifa Bayeza, Shange’s sister and fellow playwright, told the Star-Tribune. “It’s a huge loss for the world. I don’t think there’s a day on the planet when there’s not a young woman who discovers herself through the words of my sister.”

Shange was survived by her daughter, Savannah Shange, and granddaughter, Harriet Shange Watkins.