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City Tech Library Exhibits

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Pride: The Legacy of Audre Lorde at CUNY

Audre Lorde with text "Women are Powerful and Dangerous"

When I started my internship at the library, one of my first assignments was to help develop resources for City Tech’s English classes. I like to do background research when I start projects, so I read up on the history of CUNY’s English departments. I was thrilled to discover that world-famous poet Audre Lorde had deep connections to English at CUNY: she went to Hunter for her BA, and then became a highly active and influential professor at several CUNY campuses.

Audre Lorde was a powerful and radical thinker. She was a Caribbean-American, lesbian, activist, writer, poet, teacher, and visionary. She dedicated her life to confronting racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia, and she was deeply involved with several social justice movements in the United States. 

Lorde was born in Harlem in 1934. Her parents were from the West Indies. She wrote her first poem when she was in the eighth grade. She was the first Black student at Hunter High School, where she worked on the school newspaper. In her senior year, she published her poem “Spring” in Seventeen Magazine.

After graduation from high school, she spent a year as a student at the National University of Mexico. During this time, she explored her identity as both a lesbian and a poet. In Mexico, she found a sense of belonging and acceptance, and in 1954 she returned to New York with new confidence.

On her return to New York, Lorde earned her BA from Hunter College and her MLS from Columbia University. She was a librarian in the New York public schools throughout the 1960s. She also became an active participant in the gay culture of Greenwich Village. She began teaching as poet-in-residence at Tougaloo College. Her experiences with teaching—as well as her place as a Black, queer woman in the academic ivory tower—informed the rest of her life and work. 

Lorde made critical contributions to feminist theory, critical race studies, and queer theory. She spoke about the intersections of race, class, and gender in essays such as “The Master’s Tools Will Not Dismantle the Master’s House.” Her work created spaces for conversations about racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. She saw the fight for gay rights as part of a greater fight against all forces that oppress marginalized people.

Lorde taught at Lehman College and John Jay College of Criminal Justice from 1970 to 1981. She then moved to Hunter College as the distinguished Thomas Hunter chair in English. In 1985, Lorde was honored with the dedication of the Audre Lorde Women’s Poetry Center at Hunter College. Lorde’s other honors included a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and election as Poet Laureate of New York.

Lorde is best known for her poems that express anger and outrage at injustice. Her writing articulates struggles related to civil rights, feminism, lesbianism, and disability. Her writing is known for its powerful call for social change, as well as its depictions of queer experience and sexuality. 

Lorde’s collections of poetry include The First Cities, Cables to Rage, New York Head Shop and Museum, Coal, and The Black Unicorn. Her memoir Zami: A New Spelling of My Name and Sister Outsider, a collection of essays, deal with issues of sexism, sexuality, and racism. The Cancer Journals, her account of her breast cancer is regarded as a classic illness narrative.

Lorde spent the last years of her life in St. Croix. She died in 1992, at the age of 58. She was memorialized across the globe, and her ashes were scattered in the Caribbean, Germany, and the United States.


The Collected Poems Of Audre Lorde (1997)

The Marvelous Arithmetics Of Distance: Poems 1987-1992 (1993)

Undersong: Chosen Poems Old And New (1992)

Our Dead Behind Us (1986)

Chosen Poems: Old and New (1982)

The Black Unicorn (1978)

Coal (1976)

Between Ourselves (1976)

The New York Head Shop and Museum (1974)

From a Land Where Other People Live (1973)

Cables to Rage (1970)

The First Cities (1968)


Burst of Light (1988)

Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (1984)

Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1982)

The Cancer Journals (1980)

Online Resources

Audre Lorde: “I teach myself in outline,” Notes, Journals, Syllabi, & an Excerpt from Deotha

Audre Lorde: Profiles of LGBT African Americans

“I Am Deliberate and Afraid of Nothing:” Remembering Audre Lorde (Hunter ’59) – Activist, Feminist, Poet Laureate