Born in Trenton, New Jersey on October 18, 1948, Ntozake Shange was a performance artist, novelist, and poet, who began using her art as activism early on.
But what we most know her for almost took her life.
When Ntozake Shange made her Broadway debut in 1976, she was an anomaly in the theater world as a Black woman playwright. Her award-winning and later film-adapted choreopoem “For Colored Girls” featured seven Black women vulnerably exploring trauma through poetry, dance, and music.
However, the same trauma her characters expressed through art also nearly cost Shange her life.
During her college years, Shange survived depression and several suicide attempts. She came out of that chapter as an artist with a South African name: Ntozake Shange. Its meaning? “She who comes with her own things … and walks with lions.”
Following the success of For Colored Girls, Ntozake Shange continued blazing trails for Black women artists. She authored many more works – all the while making sure to write us, her people, into every story.
Ntozake Shange was never afraid to speak truth to power in her art. No stranger to criticism, she pressed on winning countless awards, writing plays, and books for the remainder of her life. Her legacy is one that we can lean on today for inspiration to keep persevering, even when the world says otherwise.