Happy Birthday, Alice Walker!
Friday, February 9th, 2018
Alice Walker grew up in a large family (she was the youngest of eight children) in Georgia. Her parents were sharecroppers, and with Jim Crow laws still prevalent, education for black children like Walker and her siblings was discouraged. Her mother, however, was adamant that her daughter would continue her studies. By the time she was four, Walker had already been enrolled in first grade, and when she graduated and went on to attend college, her mother worked tirelessly to help pay her tuition fees.
School was initially a challenge for Walker. Blinded in one eye by a childhood incident with a BB gun, she was shy and self-conscious. She was a good student, however, and was already writing private journals and stories by the time she was eight. She graduated as her class's valedictorian and went on to attend first Spelman College in Atlanta, and then Sarah Lawrence College in New York.
As a college student, Walker began what would be a lifelong career of activism in addition to her work as a writer. She was active in the Civil Rights Movement in the late 60s, returning to the South to advocate for the rights and treatment of people of color, especially women and children.
After college, Walker took a position as an editor at Ms. magazine. Her first book, Once, a collection of poetry, was released in 1968, and her first novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland, in 1970. It was her third novel, however, The Color Purple, for which Walker is best known. It encapsulated many of the themes that her work has continued to explore throughout her career, namely the experience of women of color who face not only the trials of racism, but also the restrictions and outright violence of a strictly patriarchal culture. The book won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award and has been adapted into both a film and a long-running Broadway musical.
Today, Walker continues her work as a writer and speaker, as well as an activist. Follow along with her latest news on her website.