Audre Lorde was born in New York City on February 18, 1934 to Linda Belmar and Frederick Byron Lorde, immigrants from Grenada. She wrote her first poem when she was in the eighth grade. After graduating from Hunter College in New York with a B.A. in 1959, Lorde earned a master’s degree in library science at Columbia University in 1961. After working several years as a librarian, during which time she married and gave birth to her two children, Lorde received a National Endowments for the Arts grant in 1968 and became poet-in-residence at Tougaloo College in Mississippi. There she met Frances Louise Clayton, who eventually became her partner of nineteen years. Lorde published her first volume of poetry, The First Cities, in 1968. In 1978 she became a professor of English, first at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, and later at Hunter College.
Both her poetry and prose have received numerous honors, including nominations for the National Book Award for From a Land Where Other People Live in 1974, the American Library Association’s Gay Caucus Book of the Year Award for The Cancer Journals in 1981, the Manhattan Borough President’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in 1988, and the American Book Award for A Burst of Light in 1989. In October of 1990, Lorde’s work and life were celebrated by over a thousand women attending the “I Am Your Sister” conference in Boston.
Audre Lorde died of cancer in November 1992 at the age of 58.