Audre Lorde was born to a West Indian family in New York City in 1934. She was the youngest of five children and legally blind from birth. She attended Hunter College, graduating with a Bachelor's Degree in Library Science in 1959.
In 1954, Lorde spent a year abroad at the National University of Mexico. While in Mexico, she came to her own identity both as a poet and as a lesbian. Upon her return, she became active in the gay community in Greenwich Village. She also attended Columbia University, getting a Masters in Library Science in 1961. Despite her revelation about her sexuality, Lorde married in 1962 and had two children. She and her husband divorced in 1970.
During the 1960s, Lorde's poetry was published regularly in anthologies and black magazines. Her first independant volume, The First Cities, was published in 1968. Also in 1968, Lorde took a NEA-funded poet-in-residence position at Tougaloo College in Mississippi. There, she met Frances Clayton, who was to be her partner for the rest of her life.
In 1970, Lorde published her second volume of poetry, Cables to Rage, which was followed by From a Land Where Other People Live in 1972. In 1974, her focused switched from love to politics with New York Head Shot and Museum.
Lorde continued to publish poetry throughout the 1970s. When she was diagnosed with cancer in 1980, she switched to prose, writing The Cancer Journals. She followed this with more poetry, including her most famous work, The Black Unicorn (1978), then with more prose, including Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1982). She and writer Barbara Smith founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press. Lorde also co-founded Sisters in Support of Sisters in South Africa, an organization working to raise awareness of the state of women under apartheid.
Along with all of her writing, Lorde spoke and taught. She was a professor of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice from 1979 to 1981 and at Hunter College from 1981 to 1987. In 1991-92, she was also the New York poet laureate. She died of breast cancer in 1992.