Audre Geraldine Lorde (1934 – 1992) is an American woman of letters, committed against racism, sexism and homophobia.
From Audrey to Audre
Daughter of Linda Gertrude Belmar Lorde and Frederick Byron Lorde, Audrey Geraldine York was born on February 18, 1934 in Harlem, New York. Last of three daughters, she is visually impaired and officially blind. Growing up with the stories of her mother, originally from the Caribbean, she learned to speak, read and write around the age of four.
Still a child, Audrey decided to remove the "Y" from her first name, preferring the assonance between "Audre" and "Lorde" and appropriating her own identity. Around the age of thirteen, she wrote her first poem. After graduating from Hunter College High School, she lost her best friend, Genevieve Thompson, and the loss left a lasting mark on her.
Leaving her parents' home, Audre earns her living by doing various jobs (factory work, social worker, penman, etc.) while continuing her studies at university. These years, during which she asserted herself as a lesbian and a poetess, were decisive for her. Returning to New York, she continued her studies while continuing to write and working as a librarian. In 1961, she obtained a master's degree in library science.
In 1962, Audre married Edwin Rollins, a lawyer with whom she had two children:Elizabeth and Jonathan. The couple divorced in 1970. In 1966, Audre was appointed head librarian at the Town School Library in New York. Two years later, she left for a year of residence at the University of Tougaloo in Mississippi. There she met Frances Clayton, professor of philosophy, who became her companion until 1989.
Audre Lorde's poetry began to be published in the 1960s. In 1962, her texts appeared in Langston Hughes' collection New Negro Poets, USA, then in anthologies abroad and in black literary journals. In 1968, Poet's Press published his first collection of poems, The First Cities . Two years later, his second collection, Cable to Rage , addresses themes related to love and motherhood; she confirms her homosexuality in the poem "Martha".
Audre Lorde is an active campaigner against racism, sexism and homophobia. Critic of the feminism of her time, too focused on the realities of white middle-class women, she strives to show that the unity of a category of women is an illusion. Evoking her experience as a black and lesbian woman, she wishes that these differences and overlapping discriminations be recognized, which is described today by the notion of intersectionality.
In the documentary dedicated to her A Litany for Survival:The Life and Work of Audre Lorde , Lorde explains:“Let me tell you first about what it was like being a Black woman poet in the ‘60s, from jump. It meant being invisible. It meant being really invisible. It meant being doubly invisible as a Black feminist woman and it meant being triply invisible as a Black lesbian and feminist. (“Let me tell you what it was like to be a black poet in the 60s. It meant being invisible. It meant being truly invisible. It meant being doubly invisible as a black feminist woman and triply invisible as as black lesbian and feminist.”)
In 1978, doctors diagnosed Audre with breast cancer, who underwent a mastectomy. Six years later, he was diagnosed with liver cancer. Focusing on her writing work, she writes about her illness and talks about it in a documentary. On November 17, 1992, Audre Lorde died after fourteen years of battling cancer.