Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde (February 18, 1934 – November 17, 1992) was a Caribbean-American writer, radical feminist, womanist, lesbian, and civil rights activist. She described herself as a “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” and dedicated her life to confronting and addressing the injustices of racism, sexism, and homophobia.

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Image: K. Kendall (originally posted to Flickr as Audre Lorde) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Audre was born in New York and went on to become a leading poet and essayist, creating a platform for discussion of race, sexuality and gender. Audre attended Hunter College and Columbia University and worked as a librarian for a number of years. She publishing her first volume of poetry, First Cities, in 1968 and left her work as a librarian. She began teaching poetry workshops in Mississippi and developed a true understanding of racism in the south. She later taught poetry in New York.

A number of poetry collections followed. From a Land Where Other People Live (1973), a poetic exploration of identity, was nominated for a national book award. From this point, her poetic works became more political. In The Black Unicorn (1978), is considered one of her greatest works and is an exploration of her African heritage. All of her collections in some way sought to convey a number of topics including what it is to be a woman of colour, a mother, a lesbian and a feminist.

Audre also wrote essays. She was diagnosed with breast cancer and documented her experiences in her most well-known memoir, The Cancer Journals (1980). She refused to be a victim of her disease and when her cancer spread, she went on to write A Burst of Light (1989). She battled cancer for 14 years and towards the end of her life, took an African name, Gamba Adisa, meaning “she who makes her meaning clear.” She passed away in 1992.

Today, Audre is renowned as a great warrior poet who used her writing to tackle the personal and political battles faced by herself and others.

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