Lorde, Audre, 1934–1992, African-American poet, essayist, and civil rights activist, b. New York City, grad. Columbia (M.L.S. 1961). Lorde was born to immigrant parents from Grenada. While taking classes at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Lorde recognized her identity as a lesbian and poet. She worked as a librarian in New York public schools throughout the 1960s. During this time, Lorde received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and obtained a six-week poet-in-residence position at Tougaloo College. During the 1970s and 1980s, she became active in the civil rights, anti-war, and women's movements. Lorde was a professor of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice from 1979 to 1981, after which she became a professor of English at Hunter College util 1987. Lorde was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1977. She wrote about her illness in The Cancer Journals (1980), which won the American Library Association's Gay Caucus Book of the Year Award. She died on November 17, 1992.
A distinguished prose writer as well as poet, Lord's work focused on challenging racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia, and her writing dealt with topics related to feminism and Black female identity. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (1984) became a central text in Black studies and related academic fields. A Burst of Light (1988), another collection of essays, won the Before Columbus Foundation National Book Award. In 1981, Lorde, along with Cherríe Moraga and Barbara Smith, founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press in order to advance the work of Black feminists. Lorde was poet laureate of New York from 1991 to 1992. Her writing has been translated into seven languages.
See A. Keating, Women Reading Women Writing: Self-Invention in Paula Gunn Allen, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Audre Lorde (1996); P. H. Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment (2000); A. De Veaux, Warrior Poet: A Biography of Audre Lorde (2004); J. W. Hall, ed., Conversations with Audre Lorde (2004); R. P. Byrd, et al., ed. I Am Your Sister: Collected and Unpublished Writings of Audre Lorde (2009); S. Bolaki and S. Broeck, eds., Audre Lorde's Transnational Legacies (2015); P. I. Sheppard, Tilling Sacred Grounds: Interiority, Black Women, and Religious Experience (2022).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: American Literature: Biographies