This Historically Black College Names Chair After Famed Caribbean Roots Poet

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Caribbean roots writer, feminist, poet and civil-rights activist Audre Lorde (1934-1992) poses for a photograph during her 1983 residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)
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News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Nov. 1, 2019: A historically black college or university has created a chair in queer studies and named it after a famed Caribbean roots poet.

Spelman College will fund chair in queer studies and name it after civil rights activist and famed poet Audre Lorde.

Lorde was born in New York City to a father from Barbados and a mother Grenadian from the island of Carriacou in 1934. She went on to earn degrees at Hunter College and Columbia University and worked as a librarian in New York public schools throughout the 1960s.

Lorde was also a professor of English at John Jay College and Hunter College, where she held the prestigious post of Thomas Hunter Chair of Literature. In 1980, Lorde, along with fellow writer Barbara Smith, founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, which published works by and about women of color, including Lorde’s book “I Am Your Sister: Black Women Organizing Across Sexualities” (1986).

Lorde went on to publish nine volumes of poetry and five books of prose before being named New York State’s Poet Laureate in 1991. She held the post until she died of liver cancer at the age of 58 in 1992.

Lorde’s contributions to Spelman College and her commitment to issues of race and sexuality led to the the chair for Queer Studies in her honor. Before her death in 1992, Lorde delivered multiple speeches on the campus, and her personal artifacts and papers were donated to the Spelman Archives in 1995.

Lorde, a self-described “black, lesbian, feminist, mother, poet, warrior,” once said: “I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified, because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We’ve been taught that silence would save us, but it won’t.”

The chair will be connected to Spelman’s comparative women’s studies program at the college’s Women’s Research and Resource Center. The funding will expand the number of LGBTQ-related courses offered at the school and allow students to pursue a concentration in queer studies within the comparative women’s studies major.

It backed by a matching gift of $2 million from billionaire philanthropist Jon Stryker.

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