Audre Lorde

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Audre Lorde, photographer: Elsa Dorfman
Audre Lorde (1980)

Audre Geraldine Lorde (born February 18, 1934 in Harlem , New York City , † November 17, 1992 in Christiansted , Saint Croix , US Virgin Islands ) was an American writer and activist . She referred to herself as a black lesbian feminist mother poet warrior (black, lesbian, feminist, mother, poet, warrior).

Life and accomplishments

Childhood and youth

Lorde was born in New York City as the youngest of three daughters of the worker Fredie Byron Lorde and his wife Linda Gertrude Belmar Lorde; both parents were from the Grenadines . Lorde was severely nearsighted and legally blind . She grew up in Harlem during the Great Depression . Lorde's mother told her stories from the West Indies . She learned to read at the age of four. The mother taught her to write. She wrote her first poem when she was in eighth grade. Lorde attended Hunter College High School for the Gifted and graduated from there in 1951.


In 1954 she spent a year at the University of Mexico , a period she described as significant to her self-affirmation as a lesbian and poet. Back in New York, Lorde graduated from Hunter College and graduated in 1959 with a bachelor's degree . During her studies in library science , she made a living through various jobs: She worked in the factory, as a ghostwriter , as a social worker , as an X-ray technician, as a medical clerk and as a teacher for handicrafts.

Professional career

Lorde worked as a librarian , kept writing, and became an active part of the gay subculture in Greenwich Village . She attended Columbia University and earned a Masters in Library Science in 1961 . During this time she worked as a librarian at the Mount Vernon Public Library, New York . In 1966, Lorde became senior librarian at the Town School Library in New York City, where she stayed until 1968. Her poems were published regularly in the 1960s. A turning point came in 1968 when the National Endowment for the Arts awarded her a grant and Tougaloo College made her poet in residence .

Between 1984 and 1992 Lorde stayed in Berlin more often and helped significantly in the development of the Afro-German movement. At times she was a visiting professor at the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies at the Free University of Berlin . These stays in Berlin were recorded by the sociologist Dagmar Schultz in the documentary Audre Lorde - The Berlin Years, 1984–1992 . The film was released in 2012.


Lordes poems were published regularly in the 1960s: in Langston Hughes ' 1962 New Negro Poets, USA , in several foreign anthologies and in black literary magazines. During this time she was active in the civil rights movement , the anti-war movement and the women's movement. Her first volume of poetry, The First Cities (1968), was published by Poet's Press and edited by a friend and former classmate, Diane DiPrima .

Dudley Randall , a poet and critic, wrote in a review: "Lorde does not wave a black flag, but her blackness is palpable and present, it is in the marrow." Lorde's second volume, Cables to Rage (1970), which she wrote mostly when she was taught at Tougaloo College , Mississippi , on topics such as love, betrayal, childbirth and the complexities of raising children. In the poem “Martha” Lorde affirmed her homosexuality : “We shall love each other here if ever at all.” In later books, she continued to campaign for the rights of lesbians and gays and for feminism .

Sickness and death

In 1980 Lorde published her experience with a mastectomy and its consequences in the Cancer Diaries . Six years later, she was diagnosed with liver cancer. Lorde died of complications from breast cancer in St. Croix on November 17, 1992 , after living with her disease for 14 years. She also processed this literarily in her cancer diaries. In her own words she was a "black lesbian, mother, warrior". Before she died, Lorde took the name Gambda Adisa , which means "She Who Makes Her Meaning Known", in an African naming ceremony .


Audrey Lorde married the lawyer Edward Ashley Rollins; they had two children, Elizabeth and Jonathan, and divorced in 1970.

At the time of the pogrom in Rostock-Lichtenhagen in 1992, Lorde was currently in Germany. Together with Gloria Joseph, she wrote an open protest letter to the then Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl , which appeared in the press.


German editions

  • For life and death: Krebstagebuch , 1st edition, Berlin: sub rosa Frauenverlag , 1984.
  • Flood of light , Berlin: Orlanda-Frauenbuchverlag , 1988.
  • Power and sensuality : selected texts by Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich . Dagmar Schultz (ed.), Berlin: Orlanda-Frauenverlag, 1991.
  • Zami. A mythobiography , Berlin: Orlanda-Frauenverlag, 1992 and Münster: Unrast Verlag, 2012 ISBN 978-3-89771-603-2
  • The source of our power. Poems , ed. v. Marion Kraft, Berlin: Orlanda-Frauenverlag, 1994.
  • On life and death: Krebstagebuch , Berlin: Orlanda-Frauenbuchverlag, 1994 ISBN 3-92982309-8 and Fischer, 2000.
  • Trust, Strength & Resistance : Short texts and speeches by Audre Lorde (German first translation, AnouchK Ibacka Valiente ed.), Berlin: w_orten & meer, 2015, ISBN 9783945644034

English editions

  • The First Cities (1968)
  • Cables to Rage (1970)
  • From a Land Where Other People Live (1973)
  • New York Head Shop and Museum (1974)
  • Coal (1976)
  • Between Our Selves (1976)
  • The Black Unicorn (1978)
  • The Cancer Journals (1980)
  • Chosen Poems: Old and New (1982)
  • Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1983)
  • Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (1984)
  • Our Dead Behind Us (1986)
  • A Burst of Light (1988)
  • The Marvelous Arithmetics of Distance (1993)

Prizes and awards

Lorde's work has received many awards:

  • 1968: National Foundation for Art Scholarships
  • 1972: Scholarships for creative artists
  • 1974: National Book Prize for Poetry, nomination for From a Land Where Other People Live
  • 1975: Broadside Poets Award, Detroit
  • 1975 Woman of the Year, Staten Island Community College
  • 1976: Scholarships for creative artists
  • 1981: National Foundation for Art Scholarships
  • 1981: American Library Association's Gay Caucus Book of the Year Award for The Cancer Journals
  • 1987: Award of the President of the Manhattan Congregation for Literary Excellence
  • 1991: Walt Whitman Citation of Merit, New York Poet Prize Winner
  • 1992: Bill Whitehead Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 1993: Lambda Literary Award for Undersong
  • 1994: Lambda Literary Award posthumously for The Marvelous Arithmetics of Distance


Audre Lorde was included in the Daughters of Africa anthology , edited in 1992 by Margaret Busby in London and New York.

The documentary "Audre Lorde - The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992" (2012) produced by Dagmar Schultz offers an insight into the time of her stay in Berlin and her influence on the founding of the initiative "Adefra - Black Women in Germany". It has been shown at numerous festivals.

In 2016, the “Audre Lorde City Tour” was created as part of a website that shows Lorde's political and personal world in Berlin.

In 2020 a street in Berlin-Kreuzberg will be renamed after Audre Lorde.


"Your silence will not protect you."

- "The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action" in Sister Outsider

"Wherever the bird with no feet flew, she found trees with no limbs"

“Art is not living. It is the use of living. "

Web links

Commons : Audre Lorde  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Audre Lorde. In: FemBio. Women's biography research (with references and citations).
  2. a b Beverly Threatt Kulii, in: The Oxford Companion to African American Literature , Oxford University Press, 1997.
  3. Katharina Gerund: Sisterly (Inter) Actions: Audre Lorde and the Development of Afro-German Women's Communities, in: Gender Forum. An Internet Journal for Gender Studies, 22, 2008, Gender Studies
  4. Introduction to the Audre Lorde Archive FU Berlin
  5. Dagmar Schultz : Audre Lorde - their struggle and their visions , in: Audre Lorde: Auf Leben und Tod. Cancer diary, Berlin: Orlanda Frauenverlag, 1994, p. 172
  6. ^ Open letter from Audre Lorde and Gloria Joseph to Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl: Der Tagesspiegel, September 19, 1992
  7. ^ Lorde, Audre - Postcolonial Studies. Retrieved June 23, 2018 (American English).
  8. Generation Adefra. Retrieved June 23, 2018 (UK English).
  9. Audre Lorde - The Berlin Years. Retrieved June 23, 2018 .
  10. Audre Lorde in Berlin - Audre Lorde in Berlin. Retrieved June 23, 2018 (German).
  11. Printed matter - DS / 0678 / V - naming a street after Audre Lorde. Retrieved March 17, 2020 .