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Ntozake Shange, a black feminist poet and playwright most notably known for her 1976 theatrical debut, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf” — died Oct. 27 at an assisted-living community in Bowie, Md. She was 70.

Her daughter, Savannah Shange, confirmed the death but did not give a cause. Ms. Shange had several strokes in 2004. In recent years, she suffered from a neurological disorder known as CIDP, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, that prevented her from typing or using a pen, forcing her to write with voice-recognition software on her laptop.

Raised in segregated St. Louis, where she was one of the first black children to integrate into the city’s all-white public schools, Ms. Shange grew up amid the political ferment of the civil rights movement and was a teenager when the Black Arts Movement took root in the mid-1960s. As authors such as Amiri Baraka published works addressing racism, oppression and the struggle for liberation, Ms. Shange began to feel that the voices of black women like herself were missing from the chorus.

In nearly 50 plays, novels, children’s books, and poetry and essay collections, Ms. Shange went on to establish herself as one of the most distinctive voices in American letters, a stylistic innovator who blended forms and genres to address themes of women’s empowerment, racial inequality, domestic abuse, abandonment and self-respect.

Born Paulette Linda Williams, she adopted a Zulu name in the early 1970s, selecting Ntozake (en-to-ZAH-key), which means “she who comes with her own things,” and Shange (SHAHN-gay), meaning “one who walks like a lion,” before landing in New York with an early, heavily improvised version of “For Colored Girls.”

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