Places: for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1975; revised, 1976

First produced: 1975

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Social realism

Time of work: Twentieth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Camden

*Camden. for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enufCity in lower east-central New Jersey, about an hour’s drive south of Mount Holly; both towns are in southern Mercer County. Named in the second poem of the series, this area is home to working-class people, the majority of whom might attend trade and technical schools.

*Southern Boulevard

*Southern Boulevard. Thoroughfare in New York City’s south Bronx area that formerly had a large Hispanic population but still has several Hispanic dance studios. Real places, such as this, encourage audiences to believe the experiences expressed in the poems.

*Lower East Side

*Lower East Side. Neighborhood in New York City’s Manhattan that has historically been home to streams of immigrants who have found cheap housing in the neighborhood’s tenement buildings. The neighborhoods have traditionally been ethnically mixed, as are other neighborhoods mentioned in the poems in South Central Los Angeles and Upper Manhattan’s Harlem. By mentioning these well-known neighborhoods, the playwright shows that despite the minimal and abstract stage setting, the women discussed in the poems are true to life.

*Port au Prince

*Port au Prince. Capital city of Haiti, the black-ruled Caribbean island nation. It, like West Africa’s Accra and North Africa’s Tunis, is depicted in the poems as a stop along the historical routes that carried slaves from Africa to the New World. These places remind audiences of the historical events relevant to the lives of the characters.

BibliographyBrown-Guillory, Elizabeth. Their Place on the Stage: Black Women Playwrights in America. New York: Greenwood Press, 1988. Assesses the contributions of Ntozake Shange, Alice Childress, and Lorraine Hansberry to American and African American theater. Provides a particularly insightful analysis of for colored girls.Christ, Carol P. “ ‘I Found God in Myself . . . & I Loved Her Fiercely’: Ntozake Shange.” In Diving Deep and Surfacing: Women Writers on Spiritual Quest. Boston: Beacon Press, 1980. Describes how the women in the play come to an affirmation of themselves by envisioning a new image that acknowledges their history and moves beyond it to “the ends of their own rainbows.”DeShazer, Mary K. “Rejecting Necrophilia: Ntosake Shange and the Warrior Re-Visioned.” In Making a Spectacle, edited by Lynda Hart. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1989. DeShazer presents Shange as a warrior-woman, reinventing the term “warrior” from a feminist perspective. A good study of the feminist politics in Shange’s plays.Flowers, Sandra Hollin. “Colored Girls: Textbook for the Eighties.” Black American Literature Forum 15 (Summer, 1981): 51-54. Focuses on the quality of relationships between African American men and women. Discusses several of the poems that compose for colored girls.Geis, Deborah R. “Distraught Laughter: Monologue in Ntosake Shange’s Theater Pieces.” In Feminine Focus, edited by Enoch Brater. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1989. Geis argues that Shange’s use of monologues and other dramatic devices is tied directly to her quest to create a distinctly Afrocentric dramaturgy. Geis posits that Shange’s success in this regard is elemental to her stature as a dominant innovator in modern theater.Gussow, Mel. “Stage: ‘Colored Girls’ on Broadway.” The New York Times, September 16, 1976, p. 20. Examines the play as it defines what it means to be a black woman in white America. Gussow also explores the evolution of the play, beginning with early performances while it was still in the process of being composed.Kalem, T. E. “He Done Her Wrong.” Time 107 (June 14, 1976): 74. Suggests that the play is an indictment of African American men, who in the play “are portrayed as brutal con men and amorous double-dealers.”Keyssar, Helene. The Curtain and the Veil: Strategies in Black Drama. New York: Burt Franklin, 1982. Keyssar explores with authority the dynamics of ritual and ideology in African American drama. Her discussion on Shange’s work provides useful insight into the organic relationship between form and content in Shange’s feminist aesthetic.Keyssar, Helene. “Rites and Responsibilities: The Drama of Black American Women.” In Feminine Focus, edited by Enoch Brater. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1989. Keyssar tackles the problematic issue of “double-voicedness” in the plays of African American women. Her commentary on Shange illustrates the complex challenges inherent in Shange’s works that seek to speak both to feminist issues and issues of race. A useful contextualization of Shange’s work with the plays of other important African American women playwrights.Latour, Martine. “Ntozake Shange: Driven Poet/Playwright,” in Mademoiselle. LXXXII (September, 1976), pp. 182-226.Lester, Neal A. Ntozake Shange: A Critical Study of the Plays. New York: Garland, 1995.Lewis, Barbara. “The Poet,” in Essence. VII (November, 1976), pp. 17-19.Miller, Jeanne-Marie A. “Black Women Playwrights from Grimké to Shange: Selected Synopses of Their Works.” In All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, but Some of Us Are Brave, edited by Gloria T. Hull, Patricia Bell-Scott, and Barbara Smith. Old Westbury, N.Y.: Feminist Press, 1982. Provides a plot summary of for colored girls.Mitchell, Carolyn. “ ‘A Laying on of Hands’: Transcending the City in Ntosake Shange’s for colored girls. . . .” In Women Writers and the City, edited by Susan Merrill Squier. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1984. Mitchell’s analysis of Shange’s play explores the spiritual and political implications of cleansing and healing in the work.Richards, Sandra L. “Conflicting Impulses in the Plays of Ntozake Shange.” Black American Literature Forum 17, no. 2 (Summer, 1983): 73-78. Sees Shange’s sources in new world African religions such as santería and in two traditions of contemporary theater: Bertolt Brecht’s epic theater and Antonin Artaud’s theater of cruelty.Rushing, Andrea Benton. “For Colored Girls, Suicide or Struggle.” The Massachusetts Review 22, no. 3 (Autumn, 1981): 539-550. Rushing argues that the play is rooted in Shange’s experience as a middle-class, geographically rootless, highly educated black woman who came of age in the 1960’s and who had attempted suicide at least twice. She claims Shange is alienated from the two traditional support systems of black womanhood: the extended family and the black church.Shange, Ntosake. “Ntosake Shange: An Interview.” Interview by Edward K. Brown II. Poets and Writers 21, no. 3 (1993): 38-47. In this candid interview, Shange forthrightly addresses some of the criticism that she received for her portrayal of African American men. She is characteristically outspoken and articulate about her mission as a writer, which she sees as speaking the truth about sexism and racism in society. A useful introduction to the polemic and intelligence of Shange.Shange, Ntozake. See No Evil: Prefaces, Essays and Accounts, 1976-1983. San Francisco: Momo Press, 1984.Vandergrift, Kay E. “And Bid Her Sing: A White Feminist Reads African-American Female Poets.” In African-American Voices: Tradition, Transition, Transformation, edited by Karen Patricia Smith. Metuchen, N.J.: The Scarecrow Press, 1994. Emphasizes the power of the song elements in the play, showing how bebop and jazz rhythms combine with literary, socio-political, and popular culture references in the poems.Wilkerson, Margaret B. “Music as Metaphor: New Plays of Black Women.” In Making a Spectacle, edited by Lynda Hart. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1989. Wilkerson’s study of music in Black women’s drama devoted some attention to Shange’s use of music as political statement.Wilson, Edwin. Review of for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf, by Ntozake Shange. The Wall Street Journal, September 21, 1976, p. 19. Wilson observes that the play captures the triple disfranchisement of being young, African American, and female. He notes that rather than despairing, Shange’s black women discover their own rainbow in humor and in an increasing awareness of worth.
Categories: Places