Recognizing: Audre Lorde
As a distinguished poet and author, Lorde used her writing to shine light on her experience of the world as a Black woman, lesbian, mother and a victim of breast cancer - which would ultimately take her life. Born on February 18, 1934 to immigrants from Grenada, Lorde grew up in Manhattan and was the youngest of three sisters. As a child, Lorde dropped the “y” from her first name to become known as Audre.
Lorde found a love for poetry at a young age. As a student at Hunter High School she edited the school's literary magazine. After an English teacher rejected one of her poems, Lorde submitted it to Seventeen magazine and it became her very first professional publication. After briefly attending the University of Mexico where the atmosphere of racial tolerance wildly enlightened her to the severity of racism in the United States, she began attending Hunter College and earned a degree in library science from Columbia. It was there that she grew confident in her identity as both a lesbian and a poet.
Ika Hügel-Marshall and Audre Lorde
During the 1960s, Lorde married, had two children and became divorced. She also began publishing her poetry in magazines and anthologies, and also took part in the civil rights, antiwar, and women’s liberation movements. Lorde's work is characterized by its emphasis on matters of social and racial justice, as well as its authentic portrayal of queer sexuality and experience. Lorde continued writing through the 1970s and 1980s, exploring the intersections of race, gender, and class, as well as examining her own identity within a global context.
Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1977, Lorde found that the experience of cancer treatment and mastectomy were shrouded in silence for women, and found them even further isolating as a Black lesbian woman. Lorde felt that the narratives of coping and healing she did encounter were designed solely for white, heterosexual women. In an effort to combat this silence and to foster connection with other lesbians and women of color facing the same struggle, Lorde offered a raw portrait of her own pain, suffering, reflection, and hope in The Cancer Journals (1980). The book won the American Library Association’s Gay Caucus Book of the Year Award for 1981 and became a classic work of illness narrative.
Lorde's advocacy continued outside of her literary career as well. Adding speaker, professor and founder of a prominent women's organization to her repertoire, Audre collected several honors throughout her life. In 1992, Lorde's cancer returned and she passed away.
A prominent member of the African American, women’s and LGBTQ rights movements, her writings called attention to the multifaceted nature of identity and the ways in which people from different walks of life could grow stronger together.
The Jamaican Center for Arts and learning will be exploring the works of Lorde via Zoom every Tuesday starting February 22nd through March 15th at 7pm. For more information please click here!
MLA – Brandman, Mariana. “Audre Lorde.” National Women’s History Museum, 2021. Accessed January 31st, 2022.
Chicago – Brandman, Mariana. “Audre Lorde.” National Women’s History Museum. 2021. Accessed January 31st, 2022. www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/audre-lord
"The Legacy of Audre Lorde". The Paris Review. Accessed January 31st, 2022. https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2020/09/17/the-legacy-of-audre-lorde/
Ika Hügel-Marshall and Audre Lorde photo credit: Image Credit: © Dagmar Schultz
Patio sitting photo credit:ThoughtCo./@jasminprix - Twitter/Audre Lorde in Berlin - Youtube