Alice Walker, The Award-Winning Writer, Feminist and Human Rights Activist

6 minute read
Alice Walker

Born in Eatonton, Georgia, Alice Walker, the full name being Alice Malsenior Walker, is a well-known American writer whose novels, short stories, and poetry portray the African American experience and culture in the most vivid and thought-provoking way. In particular, The Color Purple (1982) is her award-winning work that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1983 and concentrates primarily on women. This blog brings the story and inspirational journey of Alice Walker and her critically acclaimed works centred around women, African-American literature and human rights.

“Expect nothing. Live frugally on surprise.”

Name Alice Malsenior Walker
Date of BirthFebruary 9, 1944, in Eatonton, Georgia, USA
Age 77
EducationSpelman College
Sarah Lawrence College
Genre African- American Literature 
Best Known forThe Color Purple
Awards Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1983National Book Award in 1983
Children Rebecca Walker
FounderWild Trees Press

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Early Life

Alice Walker as Child in personal scrapbook
Alice Walker as a two-year old in her personal scrapbook
Courtesy: Pioneer Press

Alice Walker was born on February 9, 1944, and was the youngest daughter and eighth child of, Willie Lee Walker and Minnie Tallulah Grant who were African-American sharecroppers. She grew up in a poor family, with her mother working as a maid to help and financially support her husband to fill the stomachs of eight children in the family. During childhood, Alice Walker was shot with a BB pellet in the right eye while playing with two of her brothers at the age of 8. In her damaged eye, white scar tissue grew which later made her become self-conscious of this noticeable mark or scar. Alice Walker largely disconnected from the world around her for the longest time and considered herself to be grotesque, ugly and disfigured. She found solace in reading and writing in this period of her life.

“Is solace anywhere more comforting than that in the arms of a sister?”

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Education and Career

Alice Walker
Courtesy: Medium

Coming onto Alice Walker’s schooling and education, she was a bright student from the very beginning. Walker was able to attend Spelman College in Atlanta with the help of a scholarship and later, she even moved to New York’s Sarah Lawrence College. She also got the chance to visit Africa as part of a study-abroad program while at Sarah Lawrence. Completing her graduation in 1965, she wrote her first short story in the same year. Walker has also worked as a social worker, teacher and lecturer after college and graduation. Apart from all this, she actively participated in the civil rights movement where she fought for equality for all African Americans. She debuted her career as a poet and published her first collection of poetry, ‘Once’, in 1968. 

Walker is now best known as a novelist and her first novel was ‘Grange Copeland’s Third Life’ which was published in 1970. She continued to explore writing in all its forms and she even published the poetry collection, ‘Revolutionary Petunias’ and her short story collection, ‘In Love and Trouble’ later in 1973, that even included the highly acclaimed and loved, ‘Everyday Use.’ She even delivered and published her first children’s book titled ‘Langston Hughes: American Poet’, in the following year. Her works particularly focused on the life of African-American and she emerged as a leading figure in the Black feminist movement. 

“In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful.”

The Color Purple

Alice Walker is still known and famous for her masterpiece from her collections, The Color Purple. It was after publishing this book that her career as a novelist and writer touched new mountain peaks and milestones. She published this book in 1982 and in 1983, she was awarded the prestigious and one of the most honourable awards of all time, the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction Category. The book even won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1983. 

The novel is in the early 1900s and traces the story of Celie and rightfully examines the experiences of a female African American. The protagonist suffers terrible abuse at the hands of her father, and later, of her husband, and Walker starkly narrates her struggle for empowerment using the vernacular Black English and incorporating many strong female characters!

Courtesy: Indiewire

The year 1985 was like a showstopper for Alice Walker. Her most popular and highly acclaimed story, The Color Purple finally made it up to the big screen. The movie starred not only Whoopi Goldberg as Celie but also the ever-famous Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover. The film, like the book, was a massive success and has even earned 11 nominations for the most honoured and globally renowned, the Academy Awards. In her 1996 work, ‘The Same River Twice: Respecting the Challenging’, Alice Walker explored her own feelings and sentiments about the film. The Color Purple became a musical on Broadway in 2005.

“Any God I ever felt in church I brought in with me.”

Later Works

Courtesy: NBC News

Post the stunning success of The Color Purple, Alice Walker came up with her first novel titled ‘By the Light of My Father’s Smile’ in the year 1988 which was also a success. After this, she even published another short story collection, ‘The Way Forward Is with a Broken Heart’ in the year 2000. Over and over again, she proved to the whole world that she was a versatile writer, poet and novelist, and also a proud and ambitious African-American woman. Alice Walker followed her work with the 2004 book, ‘Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart’. She, later on, published her collection of essays, ‘We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For Light in a Time of Darkness’ in 2006 along with her picture book, ‘There Is a Flower at the Tip of My Nose Smelling Me’ in the same year. 

Walker shows no signs of slowing down or to stop working even after more than four decades in the writing industry as a novelist and writer. She published her book, ‘The Chicken Chronicles’ in 2012, and in 2013, the following year, she published another book called ‘Cushion in the Road: Meditation and Wandering As the Whole World Awakens to Be in Harm’s Way’, along with a book of the poetry collection, ‘The World Will Follow Joy: Turning Madness into Flowers’.

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”

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Awards & ‘Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth’

Courtesy: WTTW

As told above that she is best known for her famous work, The Color Purple, which made her win the prestigious Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Alice Walker has been honoured with the, O. Henry Award and the Mahmoud Darwish Literary Prize for Best Fiction and her tremendous contributions. In 2006, Walker was even inducted into the California Hall of Fame and later, in 2010, she was being awarded the LennonOno Peace Award. A few years later, i.e., in 2013, she was the subject of the highly acclaimed documentary, ‘Alice Walker: Beauty In Truth’.

“Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.”

Thus, we hope you had fun exploring the incredible journey of Alice Walker, a renowned African-American, strong and sharp opinionated writer of all times. She is an avowed example of a feminist that has made noticeable and quality contributions as being a novelist, writer, storyteller, poet, political activist, and feminist. For more such amazing reads, stay tuned with Leverage Edu and follow us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter and we’ll keep you posted!

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