Oxygen Insider Exclusive!

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, breaking news, sweepstakes, and more!

Sign Up for Free to View
Unsung Heroes

Who Was Black LGBTQ Feminist Writer And Activist Audre Lorde?

Audre Lorde dedicated her writing and life to social justice causes, including the rights of the LGBTQ movement.

By Gina Tron

Audre Lorde dedicated her life and writing to confronting injustices — including injustices committed against the LGBTQ community.

A writer who got her first poem published in “Seventeen” magazine when she was just a teen, she initially worked as a librarian for the New York public schools in the 1960s, according to the Poetry Foundation

RELATED: Looking Back On LGBTQ Activist Bayard Rustin, Who Organized The Iconic March On Washington

She married a man with whom she had two children but both she and her husband later came out as gay. 

Lorde eventually became a professor — and had to navigate being a Black, queer woman in white academia, according to the Poetry Foundation. This, however, also contributed to her work: She became known as a strong voice for queer theory, feminist theory and critical race studies.

She took on the intersections of race, gender and class in pivotal essays such as “The Master’s Tools Will Not Dismantle the Master’s House.”

Both a prose writer and poet, her work included giving speeches that called for justice.

She gave the keynote speech at the National Third-World Gay and Lesbian Conference in 1979, during which she declared, "When will the ignorance end?"

"There is a wonderful diversity of groups within this conference, and a wonderful diversity between us within those groups. That diversity can be a generative force, a source of energy fueling our visions of action for the future,” according to the book I Am Your Sister: Collected and Unpublished Writings of Audre Lorde.”

She also gave a speech at the 1983 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in which she stated that “today we march, lesbians and gay men and our children,” stating that “our diversity gives us great power.”

When then-New York Gov. Mario Cuomo designated her the state's Poet Laureate in the 1990s, he said, "Her imagination is charged by a sharp sense of racial injustice and cruelty, of sexual prejudice. … She cries out against it as the voice of indignant humanity. Audre Lorde is the voice of the eloquent outsider who speaks in a language that can reach and touch people everywhere."

In her life, she published a dozen books of poetry and 10 books of prose, and received many awards — including a nomination for the National Book Award for Poetry.

"Both her activism and her published work speak to the importance of struggle for liberation among oppressed peoples and of organizing in coalition across differences of race, gender, sexual orientation, class, age and ability," a website dedicated to the Audre Lorde Project, an LGBTQ community organizing center in New York City, says.

Lorde died in 1992.

(This article was originally published on June 17, 2022. It was updated on June 7, 2023.)