Here at 365 Days of Lesbians, we never get tired of “praise the Lorde” puns, and it’s only appropriate that we should honor her legacy today, on her birthday.
Audre Lorde is one of the major names when it comes to reading about Black/female/queer identities. As a Black writer (essayist and poet), Womanist, lesbian, and civil rights activist, she has brought major contributions to the intellectual and literary landscape of the 20th- and 21st- centuries.
Recording of Audre Lorde live at UCLA in the early 1990s
She was born in NYC, the youngest of three daughters, to parents who were Caribbean immigrants from Barbados and Carriacou. As a child, she was nearsighted to the point of being legally blind. She learned very early on how to talk, read, and write, and everything in her life points to how precocious a writer & wordsmith she was – and she eventually attended Hunter College High School, a school for intellectually gifted students. In her autobiographical writings, she also described her relationship with her parents as difficult – they worked long hours and were emotionally distant. All of this may have encouraged her to turn to poetry as a potent form of expression.
She worked for many years as a librarian, in parallel to her writing, notably earning a master’s degree in Library Science from Columbia University in 1961. In 1966, she became head librarian at Town School
she co-founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, the first U.S. publisher for women of color, along with with Barbara Smith and Cherríe Moraga (this is the press that notably published This Bridge Called My Back). Lorde notably helped women – and especially Black women – rethink feminism on their own terms, to escape the toxicity of white feminism
In 1984, Lorde headed to Berlin to start a visiting professorship. Once there, her influence was a source of inspiration for many black women in there; her impact on the Afro-German movement was chronicled in a documentary by Dagmar Schultz. Watch the trailer here:
Throughout the last years of Audre Lorde’s life, her recognition never ceased growing, but she was weighed down by a battle with cancer – first breast cancer, for which she underwent a mastectomy, then liver cancer. In her Cancer Journals, she explores her experience with breast cancer, and how it intersects with her identities. In 1992, Audre Lorde passed away from liver cancer; before her death, she participated in
a naming ceremony
and took on the name Gambda Adisa,
meaning Warrior: She Who Makes Her Meaning Known.
We couldn’t think of a more fitting name for our Lorde and Savior.