Profiles of LGBT people, from the past and today – and celebrating their birthdays! All Birthdays →

Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde was born to African Caribbean immigrants in Harlem in New York City on February 18, 1934. After growing up in New York, in 1954 she attended the National University of Mexico, where she developed her identity as a lesbian, leftist, poet, and writer. She continued her education at Hunter College and Columbia University in New York, where she got involved with the African American civil rights, antiwar, and feminist movements. In 1962 she married Edwin Rollins, a gay man with whom she had two children. They divorced in 1970 and Lorde met her longtime partner Frances Clayton in 1972. Lorde’s work as a poet and writer became well-known in the 1960s and 1970s; her most notable early works include The First Cities (1968), Coal (1976), and The Black Unicorn (1978). 

 In 1979, Lorde delivered the keynote address at the Third World Lesbian and Gay Conference in Washington, D.C. In 1980, she co-founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press with Barbara Smithand Cherríe Moraga. In 1981 Lorde won the Gay Caucus Book of the Year award for her first prose work, The Cancer Journals. In the 1980s, she continued to publish prose volumes, including Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1982), Sister Outsider (1984), and A Burst of Light (1988) which won a National Book Award. In the 1980s, Lorde worked with her partner Gloria Joseph to create Sisterhood in Support of Sisters (SISA), which helped South African black women dealing with the effects of apartheid. From 1991 to 1992 Lorde was the poet laureate of New York. While her work was influential in many fields, her intersectional approach was fundamental to third wave feminism, critical race studies, and LGBTQ studies. She died on November 17, 1992. For more on Lorde’s life, legacy, and activism, see LGBT African Americans by Kali Henderson and Dionn McDonald.