Audre Lorde



Audre Geraldine Lorde, ( Feb 18, 1934 – Nov 17, 1992)- Caribbean-American writer, lesbian activist, mother, author, poet was born in New York City to Caribbean immigrants who settled in Harlem. She was nearsighted to the point of being legally blind, she learned to talk and read at the same time. Lorde attended Hunter College High School from 1954 to 1959 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree. While studying library science, Lorde supported herself by working various odd jobs such as factory worker, ghost writer, social worker, X-ray technician, medical clerk, and arts and crafts supervisor. In 1954, she spent a pivotal year as a student at the National University of Mexico, a period she described as a time of affirmation and renewal: she confirmed her identity on personal and artistic levels as a lesbian and poet. On her return to New York, Lorde went to college, worked as a librarian, continued writing and became an active participant in the gay culture of Greenwich Village. Lorde earned a master's degree in library science from Columbia Universtiy in 1961. She also worked during this time as a librarian at Mount Vernon Public Library and married attorney Edwin Rollins and had 2 children with him, then divorced in 1970. During a year in residence at Tougaloo College in Mississippi, funded by a National Endowment for the Arts grant, Lorde met Frances Clayton, a white professor of psychology, the woman who was to be her romantic partner until 1989, after which she became involved with Gloria Joseph, her partner until her death aged 58 on November 17, 1992, in St. Croix, after a 14-year struggle with breast cancer.

In her own words, Lorde was a "black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet" In an African naming ceremony before her death, she took the name Gamba Adisa, which means "Warrior: She Who Makes Her Meaning Known" Lorde's poetry was published regularly during the 1960s — in Langston Hughes's 1962 New Negro Poets, USA; in several foreign anthologies; and in black literary magazines. During this time, she was politically active in civil rights, anti-war, and feminist movements. Her first volume of poetry, The First Cities (1968), was published by the Poet's Press and edited by Diane di Prima, a former classmate and friend from Hunter College High School. Dudley Randall, a poet and critic, asserted in his review of the book that Lorde "does not wave a black flag, but her blackness is there, implicit, in the bone." Her second volume, Cables to Rage (1970), which was mainly written during her tenure at Tougaloo College in Mississippi, addresses themes of love, betrayal, childbirth and the complexities of raising children. It is particularly noteworthy for the poem "Martha", in which Lorde poetically confirms her homosexuality: "[W]e shall love each other here if ever at all."

Later books continued her political aims in lesbian and gay rights, and feminism. In 1980, together with Barbara Smith and Cherrie Moraga, she co-founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, the first U.S. publisher for women of color. Lorde was State Poet of New York from 1991 to 1992. In March 1998, the Callen-Lorde Institute opened in New York , named for Michael Callen and Audre Lorde. It remains the New York metropolitan area's only health center targeting the needs of the LGBT communities and those living with HIV/AIDS

Lorde died after a fourteen year battle with cancer on November 17th, 1992.