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Ntozake Shange Papers

Identifier: BC20-29

Collection Scope and Content Summary

The Ntozake Shange Papers include manuscripts and drafts of works; personal and professional correspondence; journals and agendas; clippings, programs, and ephemera; teaching documents; personal and professional photographs; awards, memorabilia, and personal effects; and texts, music, and other works by others collected by Shange.

Materials related to Shange’s creative process are most concentrated in Series 1, Works by Shange, with additional relevant materials such as research notes, correspondence with editors, programs, and reviews distributed throughout the collection.

Series 1, Works by Shange, 1996-2018, undated, includes drafts, fragments, manuscripts, publishers proofs, published copies (some including notes), performance materials, correspondence and other materials related to works by Ntozake Shange. Works represented include poems, essays, interviews, novels, plays, choreopoems, musicals, teleplays, screenplays, and unrealized projects. Shange adapted many of her own works for performance and filming; this series includes musical and television treatments of works, as well as works grouped and marked up or edited for performance (including choreography notes and dance notation). This series is further arranged into 24 series for each work by Shange with significant materials in the collection, as well as a series of other and multiple works and a series of unidentified works.

While this series incorporates the bulk of materials about individual works by Shange, other useful materials related to her creative output may be found in other series: correspondence with editors, friends, and family about works in Series 2, Correspondence; drafts of works written in journals and research notes in Series 3, Journals, Agendas, and Notes; programs, clippings, and other materials related to the promotion of written and performed works in Series 4, Press, Programs, and Ephemera; photographs of performances and rehearsals in Series 6, Photographs; adaptations of works within this series in Series 7; and works by others which inspired Shange in Series 10, Collected Written Works, Music, and Visual Art.

Subseries 1.1, A Photograph: Lovers in Motion, 1979-2015, includes drafts of scripts with edits and additions for a 1979 production, production notes, and a program. A Photograph: Lovers in Motion, a play written by Shange, was first produced in 1977 at The Public Theater as a photograph / lovers in cruelty and was later rewritten and retitled a photograph / lovers in motion. Published by Samuel French in 1981, the play follows a young photographer’s struggles with love and creativity at the tail end of the Black Arts Movement in 1970s San Francisco through his relationships with a dancer, a model, and an attorney.

Subseries 1.2, Betsey Brown, 1983-1995, undated, includes copies of the published novel, multiple drafts, and scripts for the musical adaptation, including sheet music and notes. Betsey Brown, originally published as a novel in 1985 by St. Martin’s Press, presents the story of a young Black girl’s grappling with adolescence amidst racial integration of public schools in 1959 St. Louis, Missouri. The novel is drawn from Shange’s youth and experience of desegregation in St. Louis. It was later adapted into a musical and premiered at the McCarter Theatre in Philadelphia in 1991. It was prepared for, but not produced by the New York Shakespeare Festival.

Subseries 1.3, daddy says, 1999-2003, undated, includes manuscripts, galley proofs, and editors’ notes. daddy says, published in 2003 by Simon and Schuster, Inc. is a young adult/children’s novel set in Texas that follows the struggles of two daughters of a rodeo family as they mourn the death of their mother amidst the pressures of adolescent life.

Subseries 1.4, Dance We Do: A Poet Explores Black Dance, 2000-2018, undated, includes manuscripts, correspondence with dancers and choreographers, and research documents on the history of Black dance. Dance We Do: A Poet Explores Black Dance is a posthumously published work by Shange telling the history of Black dance by following the dancers and choreographers who directly influenced and inspired her artistic career. The book is the product of two decades of research and interviews with both influential and unrecognized Black dancers and choreographers.

Subseries 1.5, Everyday People/The Christianson's, 1992, includes drafts, correspondence, and notes from Scott Winant on a spec script for a pilot episode (“Juneteenth”) of The Christianson’s (later titled Everyday People), an ultimately unproduced television series conceived of by Shange for Scott Winant.

Subseries 1.6, Float Like a Butterfly, 1999-2002, includes manuscripts, handwritten drafts with edits, a galley, and correspondence with Shange’s agents concerning the publication of the book. Float Like a Butterfly, published in 2002 by Hyperion Books is a biographical picture book about the life of Muhammad Ali. It was written by Shange and illustrated by Edel Rodriguez.

Subseries 1.7, for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf, 1970-2008, undated, includes early handwritten and typewritten manuscripts of poems, typewriter manuscripts of the entire work, an original chapbook version of the text, and rewrites and additions of poems for later productions of the choreopoem with handwritten edits. for colored girls…, a choreopoem, was first published in 1976 by Shameless Hussy Press, as a chapbook collection of poems. Its first publishing in its current form (with the current set of poems) was a 1977 Macmillan edition. The work consists of twenty originally separately written but interconnected poems concerning the intricacies of womanhood, oppression in a racist and sexist society, and relationships between women of color. It was developed into choreographed monologues and first performed at the Bacchanal, a bar outside Berkeley, California in 1974, after which it was performed around California, traveling to alternative and non-profit spaces in downtown New York in 1975 and 1976. In June 1976 it opened at the Public Theater, and subsequently moved to the Booth Theater in September 1976, where it ran for two years. The Broadway production was nominated for a Tony Award in 1976. It has subsequently been adapted for television and film and many stage productions in the U.S. and internationally. Later editions include new choreopoems written by Shange in the decades after its first publication.

Subseries 1.8, from okra to greens, 1985, undated, includes photocopies of the text, book design materials, and a script. from okra to greens: a different kinda love story: a play with music and dance is a choreopoem first published in 1985 by Samuel French. It is adapted from Shange’s book of poetry by the same title published in 1984. The choreopoem follows a couple’s marital troubles.

Subseries 1.9, i live in music, 1994-1997, includes book proofs with notes from the editor. i live in music, first published in 1984, is a lyrical poem dedicated to music’s ability to forge connections between individuals. The poem is interspersed with images of artworks by Romare Bearden.

Subseries 1.10, If I Can Cook/You Know God Can, 1994-1997, undated, includes handwritten and typewritten manuscripts of chapters and recipes. If I Can Cook/You Know God Can, written by Shange and first published by Beacon Press in 1998, is a culinary memoir and recipe book of traditional Black cuisine connecting significant moments in Black history throughout the diaspora with traditional dishes created or reemerging at the time.

Subseries 1.11, Lavender Lizards and Lilac Landmines: Layla's Dream, includes drafts and notes about the 2002 choreopoem by Shange, first performed in 2003 in conjunction with Jomandi Theater Productions and the University of Florida College of Fine Arts.

Subseries 1.12, Liliane: Resurrection of the Daughter, 1993-2002, undated, includes drafts of the novel and scripts for the theatrical adaptation, including notes and edits. Liliane: Resurrection of the Daughter, a novel by Shange originally published by St. Martin's Press in 1994 is a coming of age tale and was adapted for theatrical productions, including at Brown University’s Rites & Reason Theatre in 2000.

Subseries 1.13, lost in language & sound: or how i found my way to the arts, 2005-2013, undated, includes various versions and drafts with edits, copyedits, and revisions. lost in language & sound: or how i found my way to the arts, originally published in 2011 by St. Martin's Press, is a collection of original and collected personal essays that discuss writing, dancing, the arts, and Shange’s creative collaborations.

Subseries 1.14, Lulu en la Habana, 1995-2001, undated, includes drafts and notes on the play. Lulu en la Habana is a play written by Shange, based on the “Lulu” plays by Frank Wedekind.

Subseries 1.15, nappy edges, 1975-1999, includes copies of the published work as well as manuscripts from Shange’s collection of poems and prose poetry published by St. Martin's Press in 1978. The poems address themes of love, misogynoir, companionship, racism, and sexism.

Subseries 1.16, Nomathemba, 1994-1996, undated, includes drafts, production notes, and edits of the musical written by Shange, Eric Simonson and Ladysmith Black Mambazo's leader, Joseph Shabalala. First performed in 1996, Nomathemba is a love story set in post-apartheid South Africa.

Subseries 1.17, Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo, 1995-1999, undated, contains an excerpt of the novel with notes; copies of the published novel; and a script, notes, and correspondence regarding a theatrical adaptation. Published in 1982, Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo is a novel that tells the story of three girls and their mother; the narrative is interspersed with recipes, spells, and letters.

Subseries 1.18, Some Sing, Some Cry, 1977-2010, undated, includes extensive drafts, edits, rewrites, proofs, and correspondence. Published in 2010 and written by Shange and her sister, Ifa Bayeza, Some Sing, Some Cry is an epic novel telling the story of seven generations of a family of Black women in the U.S. Some Sing, Some Cry was originally titled How I Come By This Crying Song.

Subseries 1.19, Sparkle, 1999-2001, includes scripts with notes and other production materials. Sparkle is a musical with book written by Shange, adapted from the 1976 film by Joel Schumacher by Shange and Walter Dallas, with songs by Curtis Mayfield. Sparkle was performed in 2001 at the Freedom Repertory Theatre in Philadelphia.

Subseries 1.20, Spell #7, 1979, undated, consists of drafts and production material for the play. Spell #7, also known as spell #7: geechee jibara quik magic trance manual for technologically stressed third world people and Spell #7: A Geechee Quick Magic Trance Manual, a choreopoem written by Shange and first performed in 1979, is a play about Black actors and other creatives sharing their dreams and frustrations in a racist society. After production at the Public Theater during the New York Shakespeare Festival in 1979, Spell #7 was published by St. Martin's Press in the 1981 collection Three Pieces.

Subseries 1.21, The Lizard Series, 1996-2018, undated, includes typewritten and handwritten manuscripts of The Lizard Series 1-4, a series of poems.

Subseries 1.22, The Love Space Demands: a Continuing Saga, 1990-2004, undated, includes manuscripts and publishers proofs with edits and a recording of a performance.The Love Space Demands: a Continuing Saga is a collection of poems originally published by St. Martin’s Press in 1991 and first staged as a performance in 1992.

Subseries 1.23, Whitewash, 1994-2000, includes galleys with edits and revisions, correspondence with editors, and a teleplay adaptation. Whitewash, published in 1997 in by Walker & Company, details the story of a Black girl and her brother, who are targeted in a racist attack.

Subseries 1.24, Wild Beauty = Belleza Salvaje, 2016-2017, includes manuscripts with edits. Wild Beauty = Belleza Salvaje, published in 2017 by 37 Ink/Atria, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, is a volume of new and collected poems by Shange with Spanish translations by Alejandro Álvarez Nieves.

Subseries 1.25, Other and multiple works, 1996-2018, undated, includes materials related to other works by Shange (for which there were not enough items to constitute a subseries). This subseries also contains groupings of materials in which multiple works were originally arranged together (for example, photocopies of multiple excerpts or poems grouped and edited for performance or anthologies). Types of materials include photocopies of published works (some with notes), typewritten and handwritten manuscripts and proofs with notes and edits (from Shange, editors, and others), recordings of and notes for performances, dance notation and choreography, and interviews. Works represented in this subseries include The Lizard Series, Betsey Brown; From Okra to Greens; Lavender Lizards & Lilac Landmines: Layla's Dream; Some Sing, Some Cry; Freedom's a-Callin Me; If I Can Cook/You Know God Can; Whitewash; i live in music; daddy says (reviewer copy); The Lizard Series; Selected Works by Ntozake Shange and Ifa Bayeza; The Love Space Demands: a Continuing Saga; an issue of Phat Mama (the literary magazine created by Shange and others at while undergraduates at Barnard College; Nomathemba, Sparkle; Some Men, Before It Hits Home; Liliane; the “Jitterbug” and “Jazz” projects; 8 pieces and 'a photograph'/other forms (including a work later titled A Photograph: Lovers in Motion); It Has not Always Been This Way; Mouths: A Daughter's Geography; We Troubled the Waters; Pasaporte; Tropicorama; texts for and recordings of performances (including Hydraulics Phat Like Mean and Dangling Participles and Shady Syllables); works that Shange edited or adapted, including her adaptation of Mother Courage and Her Children; individual essays, articles, criticism, and poems (including a poem written by Shange as a high schooler for her high school literary magazine); and visual artwork by Shange.

Subseries 1.26, Unidentified works, 1978-2004, undated, includes fragments, drafts, and entire works by Shange which could not be identified as part of known published works. Materials include essays; correspondence with and edits from editors; plays or choreopoems including stage directions and other production notes; mixed media artwork, picture book pages, and/or storyboards; and poems.

Series 2, Correspondence, 1972-2018, undated, contains correspondence between Shange and editors, agents, producers, contacts, family, and friends. Junk mail, including bills, mass mailers, and some organizational membership materials, as well as unopened mail and unsolicited and unread manuscripts from others were discarded or returned to the Ntozake Shange Trust by archivists.

Subseries 2.1, Business, 1984-2018, undated, contains professional correspondence between Shange and editors, agents, producers, as well as publicity materials, travel documents and itineraries, invitations, fundraising asks, membership materials, performance notes, recommendation letters, requests for Shange’s critique or blurbs for other works, royalty statements and payments, and contracts received or sent by Shange. Much of the correspondence relates to works by Shange and in some cases includes edits or notes from editors or producers; where correspondence is primarily composed of a work by Shange it has been placed in Series 1, Works by Shange.

Subseries 2.2, Personal, 1972-2018, undated, contains personal correspondence between Shange and friends and family, including letters, greeting cards, event invitations, and photographs. Some correspondence with family members and friends relating to creative collaboration and other business has been placed in Subseries 2.1, Business (and Shange frequently collaborated with friends and family in her professional and creative life). Also included are condlence cards sent to Shange's family after her death in 2018. Correspondents include Shange’s parents, siblings, daughter, and aunts, as well as friends and collaborators.

Series 3, Journals, Agendas, and Notes, 1972-2018, undated, includes notebooks, journals, agendas, notepads, lists, scratch paper, photocopies, digital voice memos, and other notes related to Shange’s personal, professional, and creative life. The materials in this series contain personal diary entries and musings, some of which make mention of family and friends; journal entries about dreams; notes and materials related to personal health and recovery from substance abuse and strokes; notes, research materials, sketches, and drafts, related to many of Shange’s creative works; teaching materials; to-do lists; contact information; and inserted materials. Also included in this series are booklets signed by friends, families, and other attendees of Shange's 2018 memorial service.

Series 4, Press, Programs, and Ephemera, 1970-2019, undated, includes newspapers and magazine clippings with coverage and reviews of Shange’s and others’ works; playbills and programs; flyers and posters; press materials for works of Shange’s and works of others that she attended; recordings of television and radio media appearances; and ephemera such as travel itineraries, theater tickets, and book jackets. This series documents both Shange’s own creative output and frequent speaking appearances as well as her participation in national and international conferences, attendance of performances of friends and collaborators, and engagement in networks of poets, Black theater companies, activist movements, and extended family circles.

Series 5, Teaching Documents, 1997-2004, undated, includes materials from Shange’s work as a professor and instructor at institutions including Prairie View A&M University; Brown University; University of Florida; Dartmouth College; and DePaul University. Materials include syllabi written by Shange and others; professional biographies and curriculum vitae; teaching-related correspondence; administrative materials, such as departmental handbooks, faculty directories, memos, and meeting minutes; Shange’s personal teaching notes and writings; and book lists. Graded student materials and grades from Shange’s teaching career were discarded by archivists in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Series 6, Photographs, 1952-2018, undated, includes primarily candid photographs of family and friends; rehearsals and performances; vacations; and limited headshots and portraits of Shange and her family members. Family gatherings pictured include weddings, birthday parties, holiday celebrations, and reunions. Formats include color and black and white prints, negatives, and multi-photograph frames. Photographs are largely unlabeled; where labels are available they have been summarized in file-level description. Some sensitive personal photographs have been returned to the Ntozake Shange Trust.

Series 07, Adaptations and Works Inspired by Shange, 1994-2011, undated, includes screenplays, teleplays, poems, scripts, and book drafts and manuscripts directly adapted from works by Shange or inspired by Shange. This series includes multiple screenplay adaptations of for colored girls.

Series 8, Awards, 1987-2022, includes awards and honors received by Shange as well as related materials. Awards include the Barnard Medal of Honor and Woman of Achievement Award, an honorary degree from Oberlin College, a certificate of Special Congressional Recognition, and several city and state proclamations and citations in honor of Shange’s work.

Series 9, Memorabilia and Personal Effects, undated, includes historical documents, antique currency, political memorabilia, jewelry, accessories, clothing, a cane, collectables, and other personal effects.

Series 10, Collected Written Works, Music, and Visual Art, 1913-2018, undated, includes selections from Shange’s personal library from her home in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn (collected by Barnard archivists and Professor Kim Hall in 2014); as well as other texts, recorded music, and visual artwork collected by Shange. Many of the books and magazines from Shange’s library speak directly to her interests and influences and are annotated; published works by Shange are also included here, particularly rare editions and copies with marginalia. In cases where notes, scraps of paper, receipts, book marks, etc. were in the texts, archivists have left said markers in place. A full inventory of the 400 books, magazines, and other texts from Shange’s library included in this series is available. Unsolicited and seemingly unread manuscripts sent to Shange by others have been largely discarded, with the exception of works by close friends, family, and collaborators.


  • Creation: 1913-2022
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1970-2018



One journal from Series 03, Journals, Agendas, and Notes, is restricted until 2050 at the request of the Ntozake Shange Trust due to sensitive material. This collection has no other access restrictions.

Publication Rights

Copyright in unpublished items and other collection materials which was owned by Ntozake Shange during her lifetime is now held by the Ntozake Shange Trust. Individuals utilizing who wish to reproduce, publish and/or profit monetarily from the materials in this collection must obtain permissions from the Ntozake Shange's Trust. The Ntozake Shange Trust grants advanced permission for the Barnard Archives to permit individuals to quote from the collection as allowed by fair use exemptions to copyright.

Copyright for Ntozake Shange’s published work, work created for hire, or work created under other contracts, as well as materials created by other people may be held by people or entities other than the Ntozake Shange Trust. Researchers are responsible for securing permission of copyright holders before reproducing such materials.

Reproductions Restrictions

Photocopies or scans may be made for research purposes.


Ntozake Shange was a playwright, poet, novelist, and teacher. She was born Paulette Williams on October 18, 1948, in Trenton, New Jersey. She spent several formative years of her childhood in St. Louis before her family returned to the Trenton area, where she attended high school. In 1966, she entered Barnard College, where she received a bachelor's degree in American Studies in 1970. Following Barnard, she attended the University of Southern California, where she earned her master's degree, also in American Studies. While living in Southern California, she took the names Ntozake, translated from Xhosa as "she who comes into her own things," and Shange meaning "she who walks like a lion."

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 theater 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 such as 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 her brother, Paul T. Williams, Jr.


68.8 Linear Feet (74 document boxes, 1 half document box, 16 cartons, 7 clamshell box, 3 oversized folders, 7 oversized box, 1 binder, 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)



Spanish; Castilian


Ntozake Shange (1948-2018, BC ‘70) was an American playwright and poet. The Ntozake Shange Papers include manuscripts and drafts of works; correspondence; diaries and agendas; clippings, programs, and ephemera; teaching documents; personal and professional photographs; awards, memorabilia, and personal effects; and texts, music, and other works by others collected by Shange.

Collection Arrangement

The collection was kept in roughly the same physical order in which it was received; many of the materials in the collection had been moved multiple times before transfer to Barnard, and little original order was apparent. Archivists rearranged some documents in order to improve access to the collection. The collection is intellectually arranged (within the guide to this collection) into ten series, two of which are further arranged into subseries. The collection does not reflect this arrangement physically (i.e., single boxes may contain materials from multiple series). The arrangement of the collection is as follows:

  • Series 1, Works by Shange
  • Subseries 1.1, A Photograph: Lovers in Motion
  • Subseries 1.2, Betsey Brown
  • Subseries 1.3, daddy says
  • Subseries 1.4, Dance We Do: A Poet Explores Black Dance
  • Subseries 1.5, Everyday People/The Christianson's
  • Subseries 1.6, Float Like A Butterfly
  • Subseries 1.7, for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf
  • Subseries 1.8, from okra to greens
  • Subseries 1.9, i live in music
  • Subseries 1.10, If I Can Cook/You Know God Can
  • Subseries 1.11, Lavender Lizards and Lilac Landmines: Layla's Dream
  • Subseries 1.12, Liliane: Resurrection of the Daughter
  • Subseries 1.13, lost in language & sound: or how i found my way to the arts
  • Subseries 1.14, Lulu en la Habana
  • Subseries 1.15, nappy edges
  • Subseries 1.16, Nomathemba
  • Subseries 1.17, Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo
  • Subseries 1.18, Some Sing, Some Cry
  • Subseries 1.19, Sparkle
  • Subseries 1.20, Spell #7
  • Subseries 1.21, The Lizard Series
  • Subseries 1.22, The Love Space Demands: a Continuing Saga
  • Subseries 1.23, Whitewash
  • Subseries 1.24, Wild Beauty = Belleza Salvaje
  • Subseries 1.25, Other and multiple works
  • Subseries 1.26, Unidentified works
  • Series 2, Correspondence
  • Subseries 2.1, Business
  • Subseries 2.2, Personal
  • Series 3, Journals, Agendas, and Notes
  • Series 4, Press, Programs, and Ephemera
  • Series 5, Teaching Documents
  • Series 6, Photographs
  • Series 7, Adaptations and Works Inspired by Shange
  • Series 8, Awards
  • Series 9, Memorabilia and Personal Effects
  • Series 10, Collected Written Works, Music, and Visual Art

Physical Location

This collection is located in the Barnard Archives and Special Collections, Barnard Library. To use this collection, please contact the Barnard Archives and Special Collections at or 212.854.4079.

Acquisition Information

Initial collection (boxes 1-60) acquired from Ntozake Shange, family members, and associates, 2013-2016; addition (boxes 61-114) purchased from Ntozake Shange Trust, 2021, with small additions from Hermine Pinson, Paul Williams, and Ifa Bayeza, 2022-2023.

Appraisal Note

A number of out of scope or sensitive materials were identified and removed from this collection by archivists. Junk mail, including bills, mass mailers, and some organizational membership materials, as well as unopened mail and unsolicited and unread manuscripts (excluding those from close friends, family, and collaborators) were discarded or returned to the Ntozake Shange Trust. Sensitive medical records, financial records regarding taxes and bankruptcy, and materials belonging to other individuals (including Savannah Shange), were returned to the Ntozake Shange Trust. Graded student materials and grades from Shange’s teaching career were discarded by archivists in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Some sensitive personal photographs were also returned to the Ntozake Shange Trust. In total, roughly 8 linear feet of materials were discarded or returned to the Ntozake Shange Trust.


Accruals are expected.

Related Collections

Many collections at the Barnard Archives and Special Collections include materials related to Shange, most significantly the Barnard Center for Research on Women records ( and the Moving Image collection (

Collections at other institutions’ of Shange’s frequent collaborators and associated institutions include:

Betsko-Koenig Women Playwrights Collection, 1955-1990, Smith College,

Nuyorican Poets Cafe Ephemera, 1975-2000, Billy Rose Theatre Division, NYPL,

Shameless Hussy Press records, 1968-1989, University of California Santa Cruz,

Anthony Barboza Papers, Ca. 1970-1999, Cornell University,

Jessica Tarahata Hagedorn Papers, 1974-2006, University of California, Berkeley,

Papers of June Jordan, 1936-2002, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute,

Pedro Pietri Papers, 1939-2004, Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, Hunter College

Thulani Davis Collection, 1967-1997, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University,

Michelle Wallace Papers, ca. 1940-2004, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division

Halifu Osumare papers, circa 1967-2018, University of California, Berkeley,

New York Shakespeare Festival records, 1954-1992, Billy Rose Theatre Division, NYPL,

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority collection, 1966-1986, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division,

Crossroads Theatre Collection, New Brunswick Free Public Library Archives,

Steppenwolf Theatre Collection, 1974-2008, Chicago Public Library Special Collections,

Processing History

An initial collection was processed and the finding aid written by Shannon O'Neill in October 2015. This finding aid was updated by Charlotte Kostelic in March, 2016; extensive edits and inventorying provided by Vani Natarajan, 2016; inventorying and additional processing by Dinah Handel and Heather Lember, 2015. Edits, inventorying, and additional processing done by Julia Sukhu, 2017. Additional inventorying was done by Hilary Wang, Sarah Barlow-Ochshorn, and Makeen Zachery in November 2019; images were rehoused in archival sleeves by Kaya Alim in December 2019.

An addition roughly equal in size to the initial collection was processed and the arrangement and finding aid updated by Kaya Alim and Martha Tenney in August 2021-February 2022. Edits and contributions to the finding aid were made by Obden Mondésir, Vita Kurland, Sarah Barlow-Ochshorn, and Anique Edwards in January-February 2022.

Ntozake Shange, her siblings (Paul T. Williams, Jr., Bisa Williams, and Ifa Bayeza), and her associates (Donald Sutton and Suzanne Coley) contributed to the description of this collection.

Guide to the Ntozake Shange Papers
Charlotte Kostelic, Shannon O'Neill, Kaya Alim, and Martha Tenney
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2023-10-09: Added materials from Michael Denneny's apartment; updated related components.

Repository Details

Part of the Barnard Archives and Special Collections Repository

3009 Broadway
New York NY 10027 United States