Spelman College, the highly rated liberal arts educational institution for Black women in Atlanta, has announced the creation of a chair in Queer Studies backed by a matching gift from philanthropist Jon Stryker of up to $2 million. This first-ever chair of its kind housed at a historically Black college or university will be named after celebrated poet and civil rights activist Audre Lorde. The endowed professorship will be attached to the comparative women’s studies program housed at Spelman’s Women’s Research and Resource Center.
The daughter of Caribbean immigrants, Lorde was born in New York City and wrote her first poem at age 12. While attending Hunter College in the 1950s, Lorde became a leader in the early lesbian activist community and her poetry was published regularly throughout the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s. She wrote extensively on topics of sexuality, race, gender, class, disease, the arts, parenting and resistance.
Lorde was selected by Stryker as the chair’s namesake for her groundbreaking and life-long commitment to civil rights and progressive social change. She had a strong connection to Spelman, speaking on campus on several occasions and donating her personal papers and other artifacts in 1995 to the Spelman Archives, a part of the College’s Women’s Center.
Mary Schmidt Campbell, president of Spelman College noted that “a chaired professorship in Queer Studies enables the college to build on one of its strengths and that is the Spelman’s educational inclusiveness, spearheaded by the Women’s Research and Resource Center.”