Minnie Bruce Pratt
(1942 - Present)
Minnie Bruce Pratt was born on September 12, 1946, in Selma, Alabama, and raised in nearby Centreville. She attended Bibb County High School, then the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, where she received a B.A. and made Phi Beta Kappa. She earned her Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Pratt married a man and had two sons before falling in love with a woman and discovering herself as a lesbian. Due to the era’s criminalization of queerness, the courts deprived her of all custody of her children during the divorce, a tragedy she explored in her groundbreaking book Crime Against Nature. In the late 70s, Pratt helped found WomonWrites, a Southeastern lesbian writers conference, and joined the editorial collective of Southern feminist journal Feminary.
Pratt is the author of eight books of poetry, from 1981’s The Sound of One Fork through 2021’s Magnified. Her most notable works include Crime Against Nature, chosen as the Lamont Poetry Selection by the Academy of American Poets and for an American Library Association Gay and Lesbian Book Award in Literature; Walking Back Up Depot Street, selected by ForeWord as Best Lesbian/Gay Book of the Year; The Dirt She Ate, which received the Lambda Literary Award for Poetry; and Inside the Money Machine, awarded the Publishing Triangle’s Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry. She is also the author of the essay collection Rebellion and the prose story collection S/HE, as well as a co-author of Yours in Struggle: Three Feminist Perspectives on Anti-Semitism and Racism, selected by the Publishing Triangle in 2004 as one of the 100 Best Lesbian and Gay Nonfiction Books of all time. Her work has been published in myriad journals and anthologies.
Pratt’s writing, which is deeply engaged with issues of social justice spanning race, class, gender, and sexuality, has often drawn from her lifelong work as an activist. Her organizing activities began in the women’s liberation movement of the 70s and have continued with intersectional work on women’s and LGTBQ issues and anti-racist and anti-imperialist initiatives. Pratt co-edited the 2008 anthology Feminism and War: Confronting U.S. Imperialism, and her interview on life as an activist and writer is included in the 2018 anthology Feminist Freedom Warriors from Haymarket Press. She is a managing editor of communist newspaper Workers World/Mundo Obrero and a member of the National Writers Union. Pratt also works with the International Action Center and its Women’s Fightback Network.
The recipient with Chrystos and Audre Lorde of a Lillian Hellman-Dashiell Hammett Award from the Fund for Free Expression, Pratt taught as an adjunct for 45 years, occasionally experiencing unemployment. Her final academic role was as Professor of Women’s & Gender Studies and Writing & Rhetoric at Syracuse University, where she helped to develop the LGBT Studies program. Pratt was partnered with, then married to, writer, historian, and trans lesbian activist Leslie Feinberg until Feinberg’s death in 2014. Several of Pratt’s books have drawn inspiration from her loving, mutually inspiring relationship with Feinberg. Pratt’s papers are held by Duke University. She currently divides her residence between her childhood home in Centreville, Alabama, and her current home in Syracuse, New York.
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Photo by Leslie Feinberg.