For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf

by Ntozake Shange
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For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange

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 meant 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781439186817
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 11/02/2010
Edition description: Move Tie-In Edition
Pages: 96
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

Ntozake Shange, poet, novelist, playwright, and performer, wrote the Broadway-produced and Obie Award-winning For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf. She has also written numerous works of fiction, including Sassafras, Cypress and Indigo, Betsy Brown, and Liliane.

Read an Excerpt

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide

By Ntozake Shange

Bantam Books

Copyright © 1982 Ntozake Shange
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0553273256


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...
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.

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 &
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

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
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
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
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
& 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

oyee neegro
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 by Ntozake Shange Copyright © 1982 by Ntozake Shange.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


poems by title

dark phrases

graduation nite

now i love somebody more than

no assistance

i'm a poet who

latent rapists'

abortion cycle #1




i used to live in the world


no more love poems #1

no more love poems #2

no more love poems #3

no more love poems #4

somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff


a nite with beau willie brown

a laying on of hands

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Overwhelming....It’s joyous and alive, affirmative in the face of despair.” —Daily News (New York)

“Passionate and lyrical...In poetry and prose Shange describes what it means to be a black woman in a world of mean streets, deceitful men, and aching loss.” —New York Newsday

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for For Colored Girls who have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf

includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


First published in 1975 and praised by The New Yorker for “encompassing…every feeling a woman has ever had,” For Colored Girls who have Considered Suicide when the Rainbow is Enuf uses a complement of female narrators to examine what it is like to be of color and female in America. More than thirty-five years after its inception, the Obie-Award winning For Colored Girls who have Considered Suicide when the Rainbow is Enuf continues to be read and performed around the country and throughout the world.

In her new introduction to the work, Ntozake Shange reflects on the legacy of her best-known work: “For Colored Girls still is a women’s trip, and the connection we can make through it, with each other and for each other, is to empower us all.”

Topics and Questions for Discussion

  1. How does “dark phrases,” the opening poem of For Colored Girls…, evoke the psychological states of the many narrators of the work in these lines: “she’s half-notes scattered/ without rhythm/ no tune/ sing her sighs/ sing the song of her possibilities…”? (p. 5) How might the phrase: “sing the song of her possibilities,” allude to Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”: “I celebrate myself, and sing myself…”? In what ways is For Colored Girls… a celebration of the women it profiles.
  2. In “graduation nite,” the speaker loses her virginity in a Buick the same night as her high school graduation. To what extent does her ecstatic embrace of adulthood in lines like: “WE WAZ GROWN WE WAZ FINALLY GROWN,” both hint at her innocence, and at its loss? (p. 9) Of the two rites of passage detailed in this poem, which seems to affect the poem’s speaker, the lady in yellow, more profoundly, and why?
  3. How does the end of an affair narrated by the lady in red in “no assistance,” capture the pathos of a romantic break-up: “this note is attached to a plant/ i’ve been watering since the day i met you/ you may water it/ yr damn self.” (p. 14) How does the disappointed lady in red fit into the spectrum of ‘colored girls’ Shange profiles in this work?
  4. How does the author’s juxtaposition of a poem about rape, “latent rapists,” (pp. 17-21) with a poem about abortion, “abortion cycle #1” (p. 22-23) highlight the sexual vulnerabilities and dangers faced by many of her female speakers? How does the sequence of poems up to this point in For Colored Girls… establish a narrative of sexual awakening, sexual experience, and sexual anguish? To what extent do you think the author intends this series of events to be representative of the experience of women of color more generally?
  5. How does the appearance of Sechita in the poem of the same name change the direction of the narrative in For Colored Girls…? (p. 23) How did this shift impact you as a reader? To what extent is Sechita a sympathetic figure?
  6. In the poem, “toussaint,” the lady in brown describes an incident from childhood where she was disqualified from winning a library contest held for a “colored child” who could “read 15 books in three weeks” because she rhapsodized about a book from the adult reading room about Haitian revolutionary Toussaint L’Ouverture. (pp. 25-30) How does this poem comment on racial inequality both directly and indirectly? How does the narrator’s chance encounter with Toussaint Jones enable her to move beyond her obsession with L’Ouverture?
  7. In the poem, “pyramid,” about three girlfriends and the one man they all desire: “we all saw him at the same time/ & he saw us,” how would you characterize the author’s depiction of female friendship? (pp. 39-42) How does the male romantic interest in “pyramid” compare to the author’s other depictions of boys and men in For Colored Girls…?
  8. How does the sequence of four “no more love poems” (pp. 42-48) connect to the visions of romantic love developed in For Colored Girls…? Why does each of the speakers of the “no more love poems” reject love, and what do their rejections suggest about the kinds of love they are offered in return?
  9. How do the poems “somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff” (pp. 49-51) and “sorry” (pp. 52-55) seem to be in dialogue with each other? What do both poems have in common? How does the author’s decision to blur the boundaries between poems impact your sense of the progress of the narrative as a whole? Given that For Colored Girls… is meant to be performed, how might this blurring of transitions be strategic?
  10. How does the relationship between Crystal and Beau Willie depicted in “a nite with beau willie brown” (pp. 55-60) capture the terror of domestic violence? How does the author’s decision to end the poem with Crystal’s line: “but I cd only whisper/ & he dropped em,” emphasize the powerlessness of the victims of domestic violence?
  11. For Colored Girls… has elicited criticism from some male readers who feel that they are unfairly stereotyped in the work as abusive or violent by virtue of their sex. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this critique? Why might the author have chosen to explore the darker side of relationships between women and men in this work, and how does her decision affect your understanding of the gender divide in our culture?
  12. “Positive” is one of the poems that has been added to this edition of For Colored Girls… How does this new poem carry the book into the twenty-first century?
  13. Of the many poems in For Colored Girls…, which did you find most powerful and why? The title of the collection alludes to colored women who have considered suicide. What part, if any, does suicide seem to play in the scenarios described in the individual poems?
Enhance Your Book Club

  1. Stage a dramatic reading of For Colored Girls…. Decide as a group how much of the poem will be performed and assign each member of your book club a role, such as “lady in red” or “lady in brown.” You might consider inviting friends or family members as an audience. After the presentation, discuss with your group how the emotional impact of the work changes when it is performed.
  2. Which of the rites of passage and femininity explored in For Colored Girls… did you feel resonated most closely with your own life experiences? Which of the narrators did you feel most closely aligned with and why? Did any of the lines in the work as a whole ring especially true to you? Which ones? You may want to share your findings and compare experiences with fellow book club members.
  3. For Colored Girls… is a choreopoem, a work that combines poetry and dance as a unique literary genre. If you were to write a choreopoem about some aspect of your life experiences, what time periods would you focus on? What moments in your life have shaped you most indelibly? Who would you cast in the chorus of “back-up” voices who would support this rendering of your life? Try writing a choreopoem about a special event in your life and share with your reading group members.

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For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 161 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
as a male reading this play, I can see how some males would and could see this as an attack. But I see this as not an attack on men, but a liberation for women. This play helped me as a black male to open my eyes to some of the difficulties that black women face everyday. From me (a black male) to you (black females) 'I am sorry'. Please continue to stay strong
Guest More than 1 year ago
I absolutely LOVED this book. The language was beautiful and I found myself reading (and often REreading) the poems out loud to myself. The theme of community transcends African-American women and spoke to me as a young white male.
Katie Dela Cruz More than 1 year ago
Do not get the sample.. its only the first 8 pages.. and it only covers the reviews and part of the copy rights. -808 chick(:
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book clearly influenced my life with it's honesty, brutality, and love. I re-enacted one of the poems in a spoken word contest over 20 years ago and my friend maintains it's one of the best pieces he's ever heard..........
bunnyhunnypot More than 1 year ago
I have owned my first copy of this wonderful book since I was twelve years old. I am now forty four. It still moves me, makes me shiver, makes me cry, makes me laugh. It is my life, my world. It speaks to my soul as to what it is to be a black child, girl, woman in this world and come out victorious.!! Thank you My Queen for speaking to us, for us. To all of the Queens of the universe read and be moved.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/when the Rainbow Is Enuf: A Choreopoem' is an engrossing look at the lives, dreams, and trials of women in our time period. I beleive this is a must read for all women because it touches all ranges of emotions that women experienc. Especially interesting was the unique look at sexuality in it's many forms and the ways we react. I read the book alone and then read selected poems with my closest sister friends. It was an excellent bonding experienc.
LadyDanellia More than 1 year ago
in the world as it is today so many women and their daughters are lost, unaware that they have anything of worth let alone a voice to be heard. its sad that many will never read this book and most will see the previews for the movie n think oh goodness another tyler perry. but this book captures not only our experiences but our essence and the author lends us her voice and beautiful words so we can be heard. amazing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is must read for all Colored Girls,rather they are black or not. The poems in this book cover a wide range of issues that go far beyond any color barrier.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The first time I read this I was 10 years old. When I was 17, I played 'Lady in Green' in the high school play. To this very day, I read parts of this book over and over again whenever I need inspiration, or just a good emotionally-releasing cry.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am only 14, but never have I read something that was so profound and so chilling. I scanned through a bookshelf at work, and the Title itself sent chills down my back. I opened it, and read Dark Phrases, and I couldn't put this book down. When I read this book, I dreamed of performing it, and soon I will...
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book touched me more then I can say! I saw a selection from this book preformed and it gave me the chills. It mad me sad and angry at the same time. I was positive that I wanted to have whatever book it came from, so I purchased it the next day.
Anonymous 11 months ago
Encouraging, Empowering and with Empathy!!! Rev. Barbara Calhoun-Gibson
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sometimes hard to grasp, but good reading.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This choreopoem has been around for decades. However, it never loses its impact and beauty. Reading it never gets old. I would recommend all young readers be exposed to this moving and dynamic literary work, that's deepest lesson lies in learning to love self, unconditionally.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would recommend that everyone read this book.
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Readd me
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
beautifully written, provocative and passionate. she has all the words that make you feel as though someone finally got it; really got it!