Newswise — With a $140,000 grant from the Michigan-based Arcus Foundation, one of the nation's leading gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender charity organizations, Spelman College archives will process approximately 40-linear feet of papers by Audre Lorde, one of the most significant and influential African-American feminist writer/activists of the 20th century. The collection, which will not be available to the public until the end of 2007, includes the writer's poems, manuscripts, journal entries, letters, essays, and other artifacts.

The Audre Lorde Papers, a major component of a broader Black Lesbian Feminist Project at Spelman College, "will increase awareness about African-American gay and lesbian experiences, and preserve the archives of an incredible writer who contributed so much to the GLBT and racial justice movements," said Urvashi Vaid, executive director, Arcus Foundation. "We welcome the opportunity to partner with Spelman College and its Women's Center to advance our shared interest in social justice."

It was Lorde's longtime friendship with former Spelman President Johnnetta Cole and her visit to the Spelman campus in the late '80s that precipitated her decision to deposit her papers at the College. Gifted to Spelman in Lorde's will, the papers were received in 1995, three years after her death. At the request of Lorde's estate, the collection was closed until an authorized biography was completed. The biography, "Warrior Poet," was written by Alexis DeVeaux and published in 2004.

"The Audre Lorde papers are one of the most significant among special collections in the Spelman archives," said Professor Beverly Guy-Sheftall, founding director of the Women's Center and the Anna Julia Cooper Professor of Women's Studies. "They are the first acquisition in a broader strategy on the part of the Women's Center of becoming a major repository for the papers of prominent contemporary Black feminist scholar/activists/writers. In addition, the Toni Cade Bambara papers were acquired by the archives in 2005 as a result of the generosity of her daughter, Karma Bambara-Daniel.

Archivist Brenda Banks, C'71, will assume the major responsibility for the processing of the Lorde papers during the 2006-2007 academic year, during which time the papers will be closed to the public. Banks has been involved with the acquisition of the Lorde papers from the beginning. She represented Spelman with the Lorde estate in bringing the papers to Spelman and coordinated the move of the papers from St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, to the campus. A public unveiling of the papers and exhibition will take place when the processing is complete.

One of the most significant and influential Black feminist writer/activists of the 20th century, Lorde was born in 1934 in New York City to parents of Caribbean ancestry. She graduated from Hunter College in 1959 and earned a master's degree in library science from Columbia University in 1960. Lorde attempted to join the Harlem Writers Guild, but the overt homophobia of the group caused her departure. She held numerous teaching positions; formed coalitions between Afro-German and Afro-Dutch women; founded a sisterhood in South Africa; was a co-founder of Kitchen Table Women of Color Press; and established the St. Croix Women's Coalition where she was living at the time of her death in 1992 from breast cancer. Lorde's first book of poetry, "The First Cities," was published in 1969. A decade later, she published her "Cancer Journals," and later "Zami: A New Spelling of My Name" (1982) and "Sister Outsider" (1984), her first collection of essays. Both "Zami" and "Sister Outsider" are staple texts in hundreds of women's studies classes throughout the academy.

Arcus Foundation:Created in 2000 as a family foundation, the Arcus Foundation seeks to contribute to a pluralistic society that celebrates diversity and dignity, invests in youth and justice, and promotes tolerance and compassion. The foundation was formed in the belief that all individuals have a right and responsibility to full participation in our society and with the conviction that education and knowledge can be an antidote to intolerance and bigotry.

Spelman College:Founded in 1881, Spelman College is the only historically Black college in the nation to be included in the U.S. News and World Report's list of the top 75 "Best Liberal Arts Colleges—Undergraduate," 2005. Located in Atlanta, GA, this private, historically Black women's college boasts outstanding alumnae, including Children's Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman; U.S. Foreign Service Director General Ruth Davis; authors Tina McElroy Ansa and Pearl Cleage and actress LaTanya Richardson. More than 83 percent of the full-time faculty members have Ph.D.s or other terminal degrees and the student-faculty ratio is 12:1. Annually, nearly one-third of Spelman students receive degrees in the sciences. The students number more than 2,186 and represent 43 states and 34 foreign countries. For more information regarding Spelman College, visit:

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