Audre Lorde was born in Harlem on February 18, 1934, to West Indian immigrants Frederick Byron and Linda Belmar Lorde. She was an introverted child who did not speak until she was five years old. When she began to communicate, she answered questions with poetry that she had memorized. The limitations of her poetic store forced her at 12 or 13 to compose her own verse.
At 15 her first published poem, a tribute to her first love, appeared in Seventeen magazine because the adviser for the high school paper found it too romantic. While in high school Lorde also participated in John Henrik Clark’s Harlem Writers’ Guild. She credits John Clark, an African-American nationalist, with teaching her about Africa despite his distrust of her interracial and bohemian interests. In 1951 Lorde enrolled at Hunter College. After several years of working at odd jobs and attending classes, she received her B.A. in English literature and philosophy in 1959. In 1954 she had spent a year at the National University of Mexico.
Much of Lorde’s work concentrated on the victims of American urban life; the children destroyed by neglect and violence; and African-American women, who she felt were devalued by everyone including African-American men. Two of her most memorable poems were “Power, ” which responded with rage to the killing of a ten-year-old boy by a New York policeman who was acquitted of murder, and “Need: A Choral Poem, ” a striking piece in which the first person voices of two African-American women murdered by African-American men alternate with a chorus (Chosen Poems, Old and New  ).
Audre died on 17 November 1992, at the age of 58, following a courageous 14-year battle with breast cancer. She dealt with her illness as she did every other battle in her life—with strength, courage, and exceptional writing. She chronicled her illness in her first prose book, Cancer Journals, inspiring women everywhere in the process.
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