Lorde, the daughter of immigrants from Grenada, grew up in New York City. She began writing poetry in middle school and had a poem published in <i>Seventeen</i> magazine while in high school. Lorde received her bachelor's degree from Hunter College in 1959 and master's in library science from Columbia University in 1961. As a college student in the late 1950s, she wrote poems and essays and became active in Greenwich Villageâs gay culture. She worked as a librarian in the New York public school system from 1961 to 1968. Despite having identified as a lesbian, Lorde married Edward Rollins in 1962. They had two children, Elizabeth and Jonathon, and divorced after eight years of marriage.
Lorde's first collection of poems, <citetitle>The First Cities</citetitle>, was published in 1968. She became the writer-in-residence at in Mississippi's Tougaloo College, where she met Frances Clayton, a psychology professor who became her long-time partner. Lorde's third poetry book, <citetitle>From a Land Where Other People Live</citetitle>, was nominated for a National Book Award. Her work touched on sexuality, politics, feminism, motherhood, race, and other issues. She accused white feminists of perpetuating racism against women, calling them "agents of oppression." Her other works include <citetitle>Coal</citetitle> (1976), <citetitle>Chosen Poems Old and New</citetitle> (1982), <citetitle>Our Dead Behind Us</citetitle> (1986), and <citetitle>The Cancer Journals</citetitle> (1980). Lorde was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1978 and later developed liver cancer. She died in 1992.