Due to rising regional and national cases related to the COVID-19 pandemic, all Smithsonian museums, including the National Zoo, will temporarily close to the public starting Monday, Nov. 23. We are not announcing a reopening date at this time.
Ntozake Shange's poetry, plays, and prose reflect her fierce commitment to empowering women of color by telling their stories, honoring their struggles, and celebrating their strength. Reared in a culturally rich but sheltered environment, Shange was shaken by the racism she encountered in society. The anger and alienation that prompted her to attempt suicide at age nineteen would later be channeled into her most compelling work. In the early 1970s, after renouncing her birth, or "slave," name (Paulette Williams) in favor of an African one meaning "she who comes with her own things/she who walks like a lion," Shange began developing a performance piece rooted in the experiences of contemporary black women. When her groundbreaking "choreopoem," For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf, reached Broadway in 1976, it was hailed for its powerful and passionate storytelling.