Audre Geraldine Lorde was born on February 18, 1924 in Harlem, New York City to parents of West Indian heritage. She was the youngest of five and was born nearsighted and legally blind. At the age of four, Lorde learned to talk while she learned to read and write. She wrote her first poem when she was in the eighth grade. After graduating from high school, Lorde attended Hunter college where she earned a Bachelors degree in English literature and philosophy. She furthered her education by attending the National University of Mexico for a year. While Lorde was studying library science, she supported herself by working different jobs: factory worker, ghost writer, social worker, X-ray technician, medical clerk, and arts and crafts supervisor.It was during this period that she confirmed her identity on personal and artistic levels as a lesbian and poet. When Lorde returned to New York City, she went to Columbia University where she received her Masters degree in library science. She then worked as a librarian in the Mount Vernon Public Library (1960-1962), St. Clare's School of Nursing (1965-1966), and The Town School (1966-1968). While working as a librarian, Lorde continued writing and became an active participant in the gay culture of Greenwich Village and the Feminist Movement. In 1961, Lorde married a white attorney and later had a son and daughter. After eight years of marriage, her and her husband divorced. Lorde moved to Mississippi and became a resident at Tougaloo College, funded by a National Endowment for the Arts grant. It was here where she met Frances Clayton, a white woman who was her romantic partner until her death. When Lorde returned back to New York City, she engaged in a teaching career which included a year in the SEEK program of the City of New York, a pre-baccalaureate program for disadvantaged students; a brief period at Lehman College where she taught white education students a course on racism; about ten years (1970-1981) as an English professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice; and a full professorship at Hunter College from 1981 into the 1990s. On November 17, 1992 Lorde died after a 14 year struggle with breast and liver cancer. Before she died, in an African naming ceremony, Lorde took the name Gamba Adisa which means "Warrior: She Who Makes Her Meaning Known."
Audre Lorde spent her lifetime exploring the pleasures and pain of being a black woman in America. Her book of poems strongly confronted some of the most important crises in American society such as lesbianism, racism, sexism, classism, feminism, homophobia, the insensitivity of the health care system, and parenthood. She served as a catalyst for change within and among social movements, in which she participated in the Black Arts and Black Liberation, Women's Liberation, and Lesbian and Gay Liberation. Lorde also helped to start Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press in 1980 and a political committee called Sisterhood in Support of Sisters in South Africa. Lorde received many honorary recognitions such as being nominated for a National Book Award and winning New York's Walt Whitman Citation of Merit award.
As a well-known feminist, Lorde was a dynamic force that brought together women from across the world that were traditionally separated by race, culture, class, nationality, and sexuality. Her work was quoted as "a mandate to move through...victimization and create independent standards that will help women live full and righteous lives." Lorde has written over ten books of poetry, all aiming to eradicate issues such as discrimination and oppression. Due to all her great accomplishments, she became the figure that many women admired and tried to emulate when fighting for recognition of their worth.
I had never heard of Audre Lorde prior to taking the Women's Studies course, but after reading about her and her amazing achievements, she has taught me to not give up on my dreams even when they seem nearly impossible because nothing is impossible if I believe in myself, even when no one else believes in me.
Resources for further info about Audre Lorde:
Voices From the Gaps: Audre Lorde
The Edge of Each Other's Battles: The Vision of Audre Lorde
Audre Lorde's Life-Modern American Poetry