The Straight Dope on “Black Feminist, Lesbian, Mother, Poet”, Audre Lorde
Born Audrey Geraldine Lorde in Harlem on February 18, 1934. Her parents, Linda Gertrude Belmar and Frederic Byron Lord were immigrants from the French West Indies. Lorde grew up during the Great Depression, and faced extreme racism at the catholic schools she attended as a child. She used poetry as a form of communication, and had her first poem published in Seventeen magazine while in high school.
After graduating high school Lorde spent a year a National University of Mexico. It was a life changing experience for Lorde, who “confirmed her identity on personal and artistic levels as a lesbian and poet” while there. In 1954 she returned to New York City and began studying Library Science at Hunter College. While in college she immersed herself in the gay culture scene in Greenwich Village. Lorde graduated with from Hunter in 1959, and went on received her Master’s in Library Science from Columbia University in 1961.
Lorde worked as a librarian at Mount Vernon Public Library and married a lawyer named Edward Rollins, with whom she had 2 children before divorcing in 1970. She continued to write poetry during this time period, and was published in many publications, including Langston Hughes 1962 New Negro Poets. She also became involved the civil rights, anti-war, and feminist movement. In 1968 Lorde received a National Endowment for the Arts grant to become a poet in residence at Tougaloo College in Mississippi.
While at Tougaloo Lorde published her first volume of poetry, The First Cities. She also met Frances Clayton, the woman who would become her longtime partner. Her next volume of poetry, Cables in Rage, spoke on the experiences of being a black woman, a mother, and a lesbian. Her later works focused on subjects like intersectional feminism, privilege, sexuality, class, health.
In 1980 Lorde co-founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, which was the first African American female publisher in the US. From 1991 to 1992 she served as New York’s State Poet. Lorde passed away on November 11, 1992 but her legacy lives on. Her work is archived at The Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn, Women’s Research and Resource Centre at Spelman College. In addition The Audre Lorde Project, an organization for Queer People of Color was funded in Brooklyn in 1994.
AlysshaRose as Audre Lorde