Audre Lorde (1934-1992) was a self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” child of immigrants from the Caribbean island nation of Grenada.
She was raised in Manhattan. While she was still in high school, her first poem was published in Seventeen Magazine. She served as a librarian in New York public schools from 1961 through 1968. In 1962, Lorde married Civil Rights attorney Edward Rollins. They had two children before divorcing in 1970.
Lorde was a major contributor to the early American LGBTQ culture that came to life in the queer bars of NYC.
In 1968, she was writer-in-residence at Tougaloo College in Mississippi, where she also met her long-term partner, Frances Clayton. Also that year, her first volume of poems, The First Cities, was published, followed with Cables To Rage (1970) and From A Land Where Other People Live (1973), which was nominated for a National Book Award. In 1974, she published New York Head Shot And Museum, her most political work. In 1976, she released Coal and The Black Unicorn. Other collections include include Chosen Poems Old And New (1982) and Our Dead Behind Us (1986).
Although her work received much acclaim, she was also sharply criticized. She received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1981, and was denounced in the U.S. Senate. Lorde:
“My sexuality is part and parcel of who I am, and my poetry comes from the intersection of me and my worlds. Senator Jesse Helms’ objection to my work is not about obscenity or even about sex. It is about revolution and change. Helms knows that my writing is aimed at his destruction, and the destruction of every single thing he stands for.”
Lorde was diagnosed with cancer and chronicled her cancer struggles in The Cancer Journals (1981). Her other prose works include Zami: A New Spelling Of My Name (1982), and A Burst Of Light (1988), which won the National Book Award.
She was taken by cancer in 1992. The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde was published in 1997.
Lorde shocked even other feminists of her time with her progressive theories that Racism, Sexism, and Homophobia are all linked and that they all come from an inability to respect differences.