Students at the University of Pennsylvania removed an iconic portrait of William Shakespeare located at the entryway to the English Department and replaced it with one of Audre Lorde, a 20th-century black, feminist and lesbian poet.
The department voted to oust Shakespeare several years ago “in order to represent a more diverse range of writers,” reported the Daily Pennsylvanian, the student newspaper of the university.
But the Bard remained standing until a group of students took the matter into its own hands.
“Students removed the Shakespeare portrait and delivered it to my office as a way of affirming their commitment to a more inclusive mission for the English department,” English Department chairman Jed Esty wrote in an email last week, upon finding the wall-sized picture of Shakespeare in his office.
In place of the stunning sketch of Shakespeare, students taped together 24 pieces of printer paper to produce a picture of Lorde. Mr. Esty said the image would remain until the department decides what to do with the space.
Lorde was a self-described “black lesbian, mother, warrior, [and] poet.” Themes such as race, gender and lesbian relationships are common throughout her work.
One of her poems, “The American Cancer Society Or There Is More Than One Way To Skin A Coon,” compares America unfavorably to emphysema.