Cover image for For colored girls who have considered suicide, when the rainbow is enuf : a choreopoem
For colored girls who have considered suicide, when the rainbow is enuf : a choreopoem
Shange, Ntozake.
Personal Author:
First Scribner poetry edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Scribner Poetry, 1997.

Physical Description:
xvi, 64 pages ; 22 cm
Reading Level:
NP Lexile.
Program Information:
Reading Counts RC High School 8.1 4 Quiz: 04093 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3569.H3324 F6 1977 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
PS3569.H3324 F6 1977 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PS3569.H3324 F6 1977 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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A revolutionary, award-winning play by a lauded playwright and poet about the experiences of women of color.

From its inception in California in 1974 to its highly acclaimed critical success at Joseph Papp's Public Theater and on Broadway, the Obie Award-winning for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf has excited, inspired, and transformed audiences all over the country. Passionate and fearless, Shange's words reveal what it is to be of color and female in the twentieth century. First published in 1975 when it was praised by The New Yorker for "encompassing...every feeling and experience a woman has ever had," for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf will be read and performed for generations to come. Here is the complete text, with stage directions, of a groundbreaking dramatic prose poem written in vivid and powerful language that resonates with unusual beauty in its fierce message to the world.

Author Notes

Ntozake Shange was born Paulette Linda Williams in Trenton, New Jersey on October 18, 1948. She received a bachelor's degree from Barnard College in 1970 and a master's degree in American studies from the University of Southern California in 1973. She adopted her African name while in graduate school.

She wrote 15 plays, 19 collections of poetry, six novels, five children's books, and three essay collections. Her choreopoem, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf, opened on Broadway in 1976 and received an Obie Award. She also received an Obie in 1981 for her adaptation of Bertold Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children. Her trilogy, Three Pieces, won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry in 1981. She died on October 27, 2018 at the age of 70.

(Bowker Author Biography)



Chapter 1 The stage is in darkness. Harsh music is heard as dim blue lights come up. One after another, seven women run onto the stage from each of the exits. They all freeze in postures of distress. The follow spot picks up the lady in brown. She comes to life and looks around at the other ladies. All of the others are still. She walks over to the lady in red and calls to her. The lady in red makes no response. lady in brown dark phrases of womanhood of never havin been a girl half-notes scattered without rhythm/no tune distraught laughter fallin over a black girl's shoulder it's funny/it's hysterical the melody-less-ness of her dance don't tell nobody don't tell a soul she's dancin on beer cans & shingles this must be the spook house another song with no singers lyrics/no voices & interrupted solos unseen performances are we ghouls? children of horror? the joke? don't tell nobody don't tell a soul are we animals? have we gone crazy? i can't hear anythin but maddening screams & the soft strains of death & you promised me you promised me... somebody/anybody sing a black girl's song bring her out to know herself to know you but sing her rhythms carin/struggle/hard times sing her song of life she's been dead so long closed in silence so long she doesn't know the sound of her own voice her infinite beauty she's half-notes scattered without rhythm/no tune sing her sighs sing the song of her possibilities sing a righteous gospel let her be born let her be born & handled warmly. lady in brown i'm outside chicago lady in yellow i'm outside detroit lady in purple i'm outside houston lady in red i'm outside baltimore lady in green i'm outside san francisco lady in blue i'm outside manhattan lady in orange i'm outside st. louis lady in brown & this is for colored girls who have considered suicide but moved to the ends of their own rainbows. everyone mama's little baby likes shortnin, shortnin, mama's little baby likes shortnin bread mama's little baby likes shortnin, shortnin, mama's little baby likes shortnin bread little sally walker, sittin in a saucer rise, sally, rise, wipe your weepin eyes an put your hands on your hips an let your backbone slip o, shake it to the east o, shake it to the west shake it to the one that you like the best lady in purple you're it As the lady in brown tags each of the other ladies they freeze. When each one has been tagged the lady in brown freezes. Immediately "Dancing in the Streets" by Martha and the Vandellas is heard. All of the ladies start to dance. The lady in green, the lady in blue, and the lady in yellow do the pony, the big boss line, the swim, and the nose dive. The other ladies dance in place. lady in yellow it was graduation nite & i waz the only virgin in the crowd bobby mills martin jerome & sammy yates eddie jones & randi all cousins all the prettiest niggers in this factory town carried me out wit em in a deep black buick smellin of thunderbird & ladies in heat we rambled from camden to mount holly laughin at the afternoon's speeches & danglin our tassles from the rear view mirror climbin different sorta project stairs movin toward snappin beer cans & GET IT GET IT THAT'S THE WAY TO DO IT MAMA all mercer county graduated the same nite cosmetology secretarial pre-college autoshop & business all us movin from mama to what ever waz out there that nite we raced a big ol truck from the barbeque stand trying to tell him bout the party at jacqui's where folks graduated last year waz waitin to hit it wid us i got drunk & cdnt figure out whose hand waz on my thigh/but it didn't matter cuz these cousins martin eddie sammy jerome & bobby waz my sweethearts alternately since the seventh grade & everybody knew i always started cryin if somebody actually tried to take advantage of me at jacqui's ulinda mason was stickin her mouth all out while we tumbled out the buick eddie jones waz her lickin stick but i knew how to dance it got soo hot vincent ramos puked all in the punch & harly jumped all in tico's face cuz he was leavin for the navy in the mornin hadda kick ass so we'd all remember how bad he waz seems like sheila & marguerite waz fraid to get their hair turnin back so they laid up against the wall lookin almost sexy didnt wanna sweat but me & my fellas we waz dancin since 1963 i'd won all kinda contests wid the cousins at the POLICE ATHLETIC LEAGUE DANCES all mercer county knew any kin to martin yates cd turn somersaults fore smokey robinson cd get a woman excited The Dells singing "Stay" is heard we danced doin nasty ol tricks The lady in yellow sings along with the Dells for a moment. The lady in orange and the lady in blue jump up and parody the lady in yellow and the Dells. The lady in yellow stares at them. They sit down. doin nasty ol tricks i'd been thinkin since may cuz graduation nite had to be hot & i waz the only virgin so i hadda make like my hips waz inta some business that way everybody thot whoever was gettin it was a older man cdnt run the streets wit youngsters martin slipped his leg round my thigh the dells bumped "stay" up & down-up & down the new carver homes WE WAZ GROWN WE WAZ FINALLY GROWN ulinda alla sudden went crazy went over to eddie cursin & carryin on tearin his skin wid her nails the cousins tried to talk sense to her tried to hold her arms lissin bitch sammy went on bobby whispered i shd go wit him fore they go ta cuttin fore the police arrived we teetered silently thru the parkin lot no un uhuh we didn't know nothin bout no party bobby started lookin at me yeah he started looking at me real strange like i waz a woman or somethin/ started talkin real soft in the backseat of that ol buick WOW by daybreak i just cdnt stop grinnin. The Dells singing "Stay" comes in and all of the ladies except the lady in blue join in and sing along. lady in blue you gave it up in a buick? lady in yellow yeh, and honey, it was wonderful. lady in green we used to do it all up in the dark in the corners... lady in blue some niggah sweating all over you. lady in red it was good! lady in blue i never did like to grind. lady in yellow what other kind of dances are there? lady in blue mambo, bomba, merengue when i waz sixteen i ran off to the south bronx cuz i waz gonna meet up wit willie colon & dance all the time mamba bomba merengue lady in yellow do you speak spanish? lady in blue ol&$224; my papa thot he was puerto rican & we wda been cept we waz just reglar niggahs wit hints of spanish so off i made it to this 36 hour marathon dance con salsa con ricardo 'suggggggggggar' ray on southern blvd next door to this fotografi place jammed wit burial weddin & communion relics next door to la real ideal genuine spanish barber up up up up up stairs & stairs & lotsa hallway wit my colored new jersey self didn't know what anybody waz saying cept if dancin waz proof of origin i was jibarita herself that nite & the next day i kept smilin & right on steppin if he cd lead i waz ready to dance if he cdnt lead i caught this attitude i'd seen rosa do & wd not be bothered i waz twirlin hippin givin much quik feet & bein a mute cute colored puerto rican til saturday afternoon when the disc-jockey say 'SORRY FOLKS WILLIE COLON AINT GONNA MAKE IT TODAY' & alla my niggah temper came outta control & i wdnt dance wit nobody & i talked english loud & i love you more than i waz mad uh huh uh huh more than more than when i discovered archie shepp & subtle blues doncha know i wore out the magic of juju heroically resistin being possessed oooooooooooooh the sounds sneakin in under age to slug's to stare ata real 'artiste' & every word outta imamu's mouth waz gospel & if jesus cdnt play a horn like shepp waznt no need for colored folks to bear no cross at all & poem is my thank-you for music & i love you more than poem more than aureliano buendia loved macondo more than hector lavoe loved himself more than the lady loved gardenias more than celia loves cuba or graciela loves el son more than the flamingoes shoo-do-n-doo-wah love bein pretty oyeè neégro te amo mas que te amo mas que when you play yr flute everyone (very softly) te amo mas que te amo mas que lady in red without any assistance or guidance from you i have loved you assiduously for 8 months 2 wks & a day i have been stood up four times i've left 7 packages on yr doorstep Copyright © 1975, 1976, 1977 by Ntozake Shange Excerpted from For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf by Ntozake Shange All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

poems by title
dark phrasesgraduation nitenow i love somebody more thanno assistancei'm a poet wholatent rapists'abortion cycle
#1sechitatoussaintonei used to live in the world
pyramidno more love poems
#1no more love poems
#2no more love poems
#3no more love poems
#4somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuffsorrya nite with beau willie browna laying on of hands