|Famous as||Writer, Poet & Activist|
|Born on||18 February 1934|
|Born in||New York City|
|Died on||17 November 1992|
|Works & Achievements||Wrote important works like The Black Unicorn, A Burst of Light, The First Cities, Cables to Rage, From a Land Where Other People Live and Coal.|
Audre Lorde Childhood & Life
Audre Lorde was born on February 18, 1934 in New York City. Her parents, Frederick Byron Lorde and Linda Gertrude Belmar Lorde, were Caribbean immigrants who settled in Harlem. She had two elder sisters named Phyllis and Helen. Audre was legally blind due to her extreme nearsightedness. Audre grew up in Manhattan and attended the Catholic school. While she was still in high school, she wrote her first poem, which published in Seventeen Magazine. Audrey attended the Hunter College from 1954 to 1959 and graduated with a bachelor's degree in Arts. Along with studying library science in the college, Lorde supported herself by taking up variety of odd jobs such as factory worker, ghost writer, social worker, X-ray technician, medical clerk, and arts and crafts supervisor. In 1954, Lorde spent a critical year as a student at the National University of Mexico. During this period, she started to explore her lesbian sexuality and confirmed her identity as a lesbian and poet on personal and artistic levels. After returning to New York, she attended college and worked as a librarian. She continued her writing and took active part in the gay culture of Greenwich Village. After the graduation, she left her parents' home and remained alienated from her family.
Lorde continued her education at Columbia University and earned a master's degree in library science in 1961. During this time she also worked as a librarian at Mount Vernon Public Library. She became head librarian at Town School Library in New York City in 1966, where she remained until 1968. Lorde published her first volume of poems, “The First Cities” in 1968. The same year, she also became the writer-in-residence at Tougaloo College in Mississippi. It was here that she discovered her interest for teaching. The success of “First Cities” was quickly followed with “Cables to Rage” (1970) and “From a Land Where Other People Live” (1972). While the former was based on issues of love, betrayal, childbirth and the complexities of raising children, the latter was devoted towards worldwide injustice and oppression. It also addressed the complexities surrounding her existence as an African American and more importantly, as a woman. Such was the appeal that the book was nominated for a National Book Award. Audre came with “New York Head Shot and Museum” in 1974. While her earlier works were focused on the brevity of love, this book was her best political work. W. W. Norton released her poem collection “Coal” in 1976, and later published “The Black Unicorn” in 1978.
Audre’s other poem collections included “Chosen Poems Old and New” (1982) and “Our Dead Behind Us” (1986). Her poems were greatly appreciated by eminent poets like Adrienne Rich and Sandra M. Gilbert. Even though her work gained wide acclaim, she also received sharp criticism on grounds of her sexuality. Lorde was suffering with cancer and wrote her struggles to the cancer in her first prose collection, “The Cancer Journals”. This book won the Gay Caucus Book of the Year award in the year 1981. Her other prose works included “Zami: A New Spelling of My Name” (1982), “Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches” (1984), and “A Burst of Light” (1988). “A Burst of Light” won a National Book Award. In 1980, Lorde along with Barbara Smith and Cherríe Moraga founded, ‘Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press’, the first U.S. publisher for women of color. She also founded ‘Sisters in Support of Sisters in South Africa’. It was an organization that was established to raise concerns about women under apartheid. Audre was also the professor of English at John Jay College of criminal justice and Hunter College. From 1991-1992, she was the poet laureate of New York.
Audre Lorde criticized several feminist organizations of the 1960s, including National Organization for Women and Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, for their narrow approach of emphasizing only on the experiences and values of white middle-class women. Majority of her works were based on the “theory of difference”. According to her, the general idea of the binary opposition between men and women is excessively misleading. She questioned on the feminists’ presentation of women as a solid, unified concept, as to her the whole category of women itself was full of subdivisions. She said that even though the gender difference is a central issue, but there are other essential issues that must be recognized and addressed. Lorde mentioned issues of class, race, age, gender and health which generally influence the female experience. Even though she showed that the differences between women are wide and varied, most of her works are concerned primarily on two categories, race and sexuality. According to her black women's experiences are different from those of white women, as the experience of the white woman is considered normative, whereas the black woman's experiences are marginalized. In the same way the experiences of the lesbian, particularly the black ones are considered aberrational, hence deviating from the true foundation of the feminist movement.
Audre Lorde married attorney Edwin Rollins in 1962. They had two children, Elizabeth and Jonathan. The couple separated in 1970. Meanwhile, when Lorde served as the writer-in-residence at Tougaloo College in Mississippi, she met Frances Clayton, a white professor of psychology, who was to be her romantic partner until 1989. For a brief period from 1977 to 1978, Lorde had an affair with the sculptor and painter Mildred Thompson. The two had met in Nigeria in 1977 at the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture. However, the affair was a short-lived one and remained only till the time Thompson lived in Washington, D.C. and was teaching at Howard University.
Lorde spent her last few years living in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Some time before her death, in an African naming ceremony, she took the name Gambda Adisa, which means “Warrior: She Who Makes Her Meaning Known”. After a 14-year struggle with breast cancer, Audre Lorde finally died on November 17, 1992, in St. Croix, She was only 58 at the time of her death.
Audre Lorde Timeline:
1934: Was born in New York City.
1954: Joined the Hunter College, spent a critical year as a student at the National University of Mexico
1959: Graduated with a bachelor's degree in Arts.
1961: Received his master's degree in library science at Columbia University.
1962: Married attorney Edwin Rollins.
1966: Became the head librarian at Town School Library in New York City.
1968: Published her first volume of poems, “The First Cities”.
1970: Published “Cables to Rage”; Divorced from his husband.
1972: Published, “From a Land Where Other People Live”.
1974: Published “New York Head Shot and Museum”
1976: W.W. Norton released her poem collection “Coal”.
1978: Published “The Black Unicorn”.
1980: Founded, ‘Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press’ together with Barbara Smith and Cherríe Moraga.
1982: Published “Zami: A New Spelling of My Name”.
1988: Published “A Burst of Light”, which won a National Book Award.
1991-92: Was the poet laureate of New York.
1992: Died in St. Croix.