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Spelman College Archives

Audre Lorde Papers

About the Papers

Audre Lorde1[1]“The Audre Lorde papers are one of the most significant among special collections in the Spelman archives,” said Professor Beverly Guy-Sheftall, founding director of the Women’s Center and the Anna Julia Cooper Professor of Women’s Studies. “They are the first acquisition in a broader strategy on the part of the Women’s Center of becoming a major repository for the papers of prominent contemporary Black feminist scholar/activists/writers.  In addition, the Toni Cade Bambara papers were acquired by the archives in 2005 as a result of the generosity of her daughter, Karma Bambara Smith.

One of the most significant and influential Black feminist writer/activists of the 20th century, Lorde was born in 1934 in New York City to parents of Caribbean ancestry.  She graduated from Hunter College in 1959 and earned a master’s degree in library science from Columbia University in 1960.
Lorde attempted to join the Harlem Writers Guild, but the overt homophobia of the group caused her departure. She held numerous teaching positions; formed coalitions between Afro-German and Afro-Dutch women; founded a sisterhood in South Africa; was a co-founder of Kitchen Table Women of Color Press; and established the St. Croix Women’s Coalition where she was living at the time of her death in 1992 from breast cancer. Lorde’s first book of poetry, “The First Cities,” was published in 1969.

A decade later, she published her “Cancer Journals,” and later “Zami: A New Spelling of My Name” (1982) and “Sister Outsider” (1984), her first collection of essays.  Both “Zami” and “Sister Outsider” are staple texts in hundreds of women’s studies classes throughout the academy.

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