Spelman College to Launch First-Ever HBCU Queer Studies Chair in Honor of Audre Lorde

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Writer, poet, LGBTQ, and civil rights activist Audre Lorde dedicated her life’s work to fighting for social justice. Now she will be the namesake for the first-ever endowed chair in queer studies at a historically Black college and university (HBCU).

Spelman College, America’s oldest historically Black college for women, was able to house the historic chair due to a $2 million gift from billionaire philanthropist Jon Stryker. On Tuesday, the college announced it had raised the matching funds to launch the chair. It will be attached to the Comparative Women’s Studies Program housed at Spelman’s Women’s Research and Resource Center.

Stryker, the founder and president of the charitable organization Arcus Foundation, was also responsible for choosing Lorde as the chair’s namesake. Lorde spoke several times on campus and donated her personal papers and artifacts in 1995 to the Spelman Archives. The Audre Lorde Papers have been open to scholars since 2009 following a grant from the Arcus Foundation.

“Jon Stryker’s consistent support of Spelman’s mission has enabled Spelman to take a leadership role in [q]ueer [s]tudies at HBCUs,” Spelman President Mary Campbell said in a school statement. “We are grateful for his generous support that continues to elevate the importance of this work in the academic environment.”

A faculty committee will be established to determine the selection process for the chair, according to a press release. Two queer studies scholars will be included on the committee and will also contribute during the implementation process.