Pride Month: Recognizing Audre Lorde

A photo of poet and activist Audre Lorde, a Black woman with short hair wearing glasses and a dark-colored coat

In June, we are highlighting important figures in the LGBTQ literary community in honor of Pride Month. This week, we’ll learn about Black lesbian poet Audre Lorde.

Audre Lorde started writing when she was a young teenager, publishing her first poem in Seventeen magazine while she was in high school. Through her art and life, she was known as a powerful poet and activist who resisted sexism and racism and worked for justice and the liberation of women, Black people, lesbians and the LGBTQ community.

Lorde was born in 1934. She grew up in New York City, the child of immigrants from the Caribbean island of Grenada. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Hunter College and her master’s in library science from Columbia University, becoming a librarian at public schools in New York City. 

She published her first poetry collection, The First Cities, in 1968. She soon became writer-in-residence at Tougaloo College, where she met her longtime partner Frances Clayton. Lorde continued teaching, including at John Jay College and Hunter College. She published books of poetry, essays, speeches and journals, as well as a novel. Her 1972 collection, From a Land Where Other People Live, was nominated for a National Book Award.

Lorde famously described herself as a “Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.” 

“In particular, Lorde’s poetry is known for the power of its call for social and racial justice, as well as its depictions of queer experience and sexuality,” according to her Poetry Foundation biography. “As she told interviewer Charles H. Rowell in Callaloo: ‘My sexuality is part and parcel of who I am, and my poetry comes from the intersection of me and my worlds.’”

Later in her career, Lorde wrote about her experience with breast cancer, hoping to reduce the shame and stigma associated with cancer treatment and mastectomy, especially for Black women. She died of complications of liver cancer in 1992. 

Read Audre Lorde’s Work

To learn more about Lorde’s writing and life, check out her poems at the Poetry Foundation, “5 Best Audre Lorde Books to Read Right Now” and her profile on the National Women’s History Museum website.