Audre Lorde


[Photograph of Audre Lorde]


Black lesbian feminist socialist mother warrior poet


“When I dare to be powerful—to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”


“The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”

-Second Sex Conference, New York, 1979


"I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood."

-“The Transformation of Silence into Language & Action,” MLA Conference, 1977


Audrey Geraldine Lorde was born on February 18, 1934 in New York City.  Her father was from Barbados and her mother from Grenada.  Lorde was born nearly blind and did not speak until she began reading at age four.  Lorde chose to drop the "y" from her name at a young age because she didn’t like writing the tail and preferred the “evenness” of ‘AUDRELORDE’ (from Zami).  She had intimate relationships with women throughout her adult life, was married to a man for eight years in the 1960's and had two children.  She lived most of her life in New York and moved away later in life after fighting cancer for over a decade to seek a more relaxed (and warmer) lifestyle.  She died on November 17, 1992 in St Croix, Virgin Islands. 



Master of Library Science, Columbia University, 1961.

B.A. Hunter College, 1959, Literature and Philosophy.

Spent 1954 as a student at the National University of Mexico.


Professional & Activist History

Thomas Hunter Chair of Literature, Hunter College, 1987.

Professor of English, Hunter College of The City University of New York, 1981-87.

Professor of English, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, 1979-81.

Poet-in-residence, Tougaloo College, Jackson, Mississippi, 1968 (National Endowment for the Arts grant).

Head Librarian, Town School Library, New York, 1966-68.

Jobs worked while studying and writing poetry: factory worker, ghost writer, social worker, X-ray technician, medical clerk, and arts and crafts supervisor.

Co-founder, Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press.

Founder, Sisterhood in Support of Sisters in South Africa.

Featured speaker at the first national march for gay and lesbian liberation, Washington, DC, 1979.

Organized disaster relief efforts for St. Croix in the wake of Hurricane Hugo, 1989.


Poetry & Prose

Lorde’s professional life as a poet began in high school.  She wrote a poem that the administration found too romantic for the school’s literary journal, so she sent it to Seventeen magazine.  Seventeen published the poem and paid her more money for it than she made in any of the 10 years following.  Lorde went on to publish over a dozen books on poetry and six books of prose.  Her poetry and prose have also appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies in the U.S. and internationally.  Her work has been translated into seven languages.  Her book The Cancer Journals earned the American Library Association Gay Caucus Book of the Year Award in 1981.  Lorde earned many other awards and honors including the Walt Whitman Citation of Merit, which conferred the mantle of New York State poet for 1991-93. Governor Mario Cuomo designated her New York State's Poet Laureate.



Lorde's seventh book of poetry, The Black Unicorn (1978, Norton), is widely considered to be her most brilliant work. In addition to several other books of poetry and prose, she wrote the following works of nonfiction:

The Cancer Journals. Spinsters, Ink, Argyle, N.Y., 1980.

Sister Outsider: Essays & Speeches. Crossing Press, Trumansburg, NY, 1984.

Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. Crossing Press, Trumansburg, NY, 1982.

A Burst of Light: Essays.  Firebrand Books, Ithaca, NY, 1989.


Works About the Author

Daniell, Rosemary.  1982.  The Poet Who Found Her Own Way.  New York Times Book Review, Dec. 19., p. 12. 

Emecheta-Malcolm X. 1993. Black Literature Criticism: Volume 2. Ed. James P. Draper, 1992.

Hine. Black Women In America, Volume 1. A-L.

Gale Research Company. 1995. Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 41: Afro-American Poets Since 1955.

Tate, Claudia.  1983. Black Women Writers at Work. New York: Continum.



The Body of a Poet: A Tribute to Audre Lorde.  A film by Sonali Fernando.  1995.


A Litany for Survival: The Life and Work of Audre Lorde. Documentary film by Ada Griffith and Michelle Parkerson, 1994.



Works Cited

“A Litany for Survival: The Life and Work of Audre Lorde.” Documentary film by Ada Griffith and Michelle Parkerson, 1994. website:


Lorde, Audre. 1984.  Sister Outsider: Essays & Speeches. Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press.


Modern American Poetry online journal:


Voices from the Gaps: Women Writers of Color website: