Ntozake Shange Papers
Collection Scope and Content Summary
The collection contains personal correspondence from family members, friends, and collaborators, and business correspondence including royalty statements from numerous literary agents, contracts with literary agents, editorial letters, and contracts and agreements related to the film adaptation of for colored girls. Also included are Shange's diaries and agendas with known entries ranging from 1981-2010; teaching materials from the University of Florida and Prairie View A&M University; numerous awards including the Barnard Medal of Honor, an honorary degree from Oberlin College, a certificate of Special Congressional Recognition, and several City Proclamations in honor of her work.
Photographic materials in the collection are often unlabeled and are printed in a variety of formats including both color and black and white prints. Some photographic negatives also exist within the collection. Among the photographs in the collection is an album of photographic prints The Sweet Breath of Life. Shange saved a number of press clippings, flyers, and promotional materials related to her work, performances, and appearances. Additionally, there are several works or art given to and/or collected by Shange, and works of art produced by Shange, most notably art inspired by her Lizard Series. A variety of ephemera and collectables exist within the collection including a marionette, rosary beads, Kama Sutra cards, jewelry made by Shange, Shange's magnifying glass, and her writing pen.
To complement the aforementioned materials, selections from Shange's Library - chosen in concert with Barnard College Professor Kim F. Hall - are included within this collection. Many of the books - which speak directly to Ntozake Shange's interests and influences - are heavily annotated. In cases where notes, scraps of paper, receipts, book marks, etc. were in the texts, the archivists have made the decision to leave said markers. The collection also includes approximately 17GB of born digital materials on CD-Rs, DVD-Rs, DVD-RWs, 3.5 inch floppy disks, and on a MiniDV. Documents within these digital materials include photographs, a video of Shange performing "Dangling Participles and Shady Syllables," a video of Shange receiving the 2009 Otto Rene Castillo Award for Political Theater, and manuscripts.
- Shange, Ntozake (Person)
Among Shange's best known works is the 1975 piece, first published as a chapbook by Shameless Hussy Press, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf, a mix of music, dance, drama, and poetry conceptualized by Shange as a choreopoem. It was performed first by Shange and a cast at the Bacchanal in the Bay Area, and then at a series of downtown New York venues as an Off-Broadway theatre production in 1975-6, and opened at the Public Theater in June 1976. It quickly moved to the Booth Theater on Broadway and was the recipient of numerous awards including the Obie Award and the Outer Critics Circle Award. In 1977, for colored girls was re-published by MacMillan. for colored girls was adapted for television in a 1982 production for The American Playhouse series and for film in the 2010 Tyler Perry production For Colored Girls. In 2019, for colored girls returned to the Public for a revival and again garnered numerous awards, including the Outer Critics Circle Award for best revival and a Drama Desk Award.
The cross- and inter-disciplinary body of Shange's work is prolific and includes, but is certainly not limited to, theater works: A Photograph: Lovers in Motion (1977), Boogie Woogie Landscapes (1979), Spell #7 (1979), Mother Courage and Her Children (1980, winner of a 1981 Obie Award), Bocas (1982), Whitewash (1994, adapted for a television special starring Rubie Dee); works of poetry such as: Nappy Edges (1978), A Daughter's Geography (1983), From Okra to Greens (1984), Ridin' the Moon in Texas: Word Paintings (1987), The Sweet Breath of Life: A Poetic Narrative of the African American Family (2004, with photography by Frank Stewart and Kamoinge, Inc.), People of Watts (1993, first published in VIBE Magazine); and numerous novels: Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo (1982), Betsey Brown(1985),Liliane (1994), Some Sing, Some Cry (2010, with Shange's sister Ifa Bayeza). Additionally, Shange authored several children's books and wrote the forward to Robert Mapplethorpe's book of photography, The Black Book (1986). Shange's first posthumously published book, Dance We Do: A Poet Explores Black Dance, was published in 2020.
Shange dedicated much of her life to educating, directing, and performing. She was a visiting artist, an artist in residence, a scholar in residence, and/or taught courses in Women's Studies, Gender Studies, Africana Studies, and Literature at institutions including: Douglass College, University of Houston, Brown, City College of New York, Yale University, Howard University, New York University, and Barnard College. She danced with the Third World Collective, Raymond Sawyer's Afro-American Dance Company, and the West Coast Dance Works. As a dancer she worked extensively with the choreographer and dancer Dianne McIntyre, having once been a student in McIntyre's Harlem dance company Sounds in Motion. The collaborative relationship between Ntozake Shange and Dianne McIntyre resulted in a number of works including the choreopoem Why I Had to Dance, written by Shange and choreographed and directed by McIntyre. Shange appeared in numerous Broadway and Off-Broadway productions including for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf; she directed works for the New York Shakespeare Festival and the Houston Equinox Theatre; and she acted in several plays including Where the Mississippi Meets the Amazon (1977) and Mouths (1981). Shange was the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lila Wallace Reader's Digest Fund Award, a Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, and a Pushcart Prize.
Ntozake Shange died on October 27, 2018, in Bowie, Maryland. She was survived by her daughter, Savannah Shange; her sisters Ifa Bayeza and Bisa Williams; and brother, Paul T. Williams Jr.
39 Linear Feet (35 document boxes, 14 banker's boxes, 7 clamshell box, 3 oversized folders, 1 oversized box, 1 box of digital media including CD-Rs, DVD-Rs, DVD-RWs, 3.5 inch floppy disks, and a MiniDV tape)
17.1 Gigabytes (1 pdf, 43 m4a music files, and 776 jpg files)
Series 1, Works by Shange
Series 2, Correspondence
Subseries 2.1, Personal
Subseries 2.2, Business
Series 3, Journals and Agendas
Series 4, Notes
Series 5, Clippings, Flyers, Programs, and Posters
Series 6, Teaching Documents
Series 7, Photographs
Series 8, Artwork
Subseries 8.1, Created by Shange
Subseries 8.2, Collected by Shange
Series 9, Adaptations and Works Inspired by Shange
Series 10, Awards
Series 11, Collectables
Series 12, Selections from Shange’s Library
Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements
- African American authors
- African American choreographers
- African American dancers
- African American poets
- African American women
- African American women authors
- African American women poets
- African diaspora in literature
- Barnard College -- Alumni and alumnae
- Dramatic works
- Experimental theatre
- Performing arts
- Photograph albums
- Programs (documents)
- Shange, Ntozake
- Guide to the Ntozake Shange Papers
- Charlotte Kostelic and Shannon O'Neill
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description