Sara Ramirez
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Audre Lorde's Home Is Now a Historic Landmark

audre lorde home historic landmark new york city poet black lesbian feminist intersectionality

Audre Lorde has received yet another posthumous honor. New York City’s city council has declared her Staten Island home a historic landmark based on her contributions to LGBTQ+ history. 

The celebrated Black lesbian author and advocate pushed for mainstream feminism to become more attuned to intersectionality and critiqued how the mainstream feminist movement was too centered on white, heterosexual women. In addition to writing seminal books like Sister Outsider and Your Silence Will Not Protect You, she was also a member of the Combahee River Collective, a Black lesbian feminist group. 

The 1979 essay “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” is among her most influential and oft-quoted essays, in which she calls attention to how the tactics used by mainstream feminism for gender liberation often run counter to the cause and instead reinforce the oppression they seek to undo. 

“They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change,” Lorde wrote. “And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master's house as their only source of support.” 

Lorde lived in a Staten Island home with her partner Frances Clayton and two children from 1972 to 1987, which is also where she wrote many of her most famous works. She passed away in 1992 after years of struggling with cancer, an experience she detailed in works such as The Cancer Journals and Bursts of Light. 

After her death, the Audre Lorde Project, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit and advocacy organization serving LGBTQ+ communities of color, was named in her honor..

Lorde’s home was among the locations shortlisted by the New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission during Pride month this year, an esteemed list that included James Baldwin’s Upper West Side apartment. The designation was subsequently approved by the full city council to ring in LGBTQ+ History Month, an annual observance that takes place in October.

Andrew Dolkart, co-director of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, said the organization was “thrilled” to add Lorde’s home to New York City’s list of historic sites and to honor its “rich [LGBTQ+] history.”

In a June press release, Dolkart said the selections add “to the diversity of places officially recognized by the city.”

The other buildings that were granted landmark status are Caffe Cino, the LGBT Community Center, the Women’s Liberation Center, and the Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse. In total, there are 239 sites on the growing list, which include Carnegie Hall and the Stonewall Inn, the latter of which is often viewed as the birthplace of the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement.

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