February 9, 1944 |
Eatonton, Georgia, United States
|Occupation||Novelist, short story writer, poet, political activist|
|Genres||African American literature|
|Notable work(s)||The Color Purple|
National Book Award
|Spouse(s)||Melvyn Rosenman Leventhal (married 1967, divorced 1976)|
|Partner(s)||Robert Allen, Tracy Chapman|
Alice Malsenior Walker (born February 9, 1944) is an American author, poet, womanist, and activist. She is best known for the critically acclaimed novel The Color Purple (1982) for which she won the National Book Award[a] and the Pulitzer Prize.
Early life 
Walker was born in Eatonton, Georgia, the youngest of eight children, to Willie Lee Walker and Minnie Lou Tallulah Grant. Her father, who was, in her words, "wonderful at math but a terrible farmer," earned only $300 a year from sharecropping and dairy farming. Her mother supplemented the family income by working as a maid. She worked 11 hours a day for USD $17 per week to help pay for Alice to attend college.
Living under Jim Crow laws, Walker's parents resisted landlords who expected the children of black sharecroppers to work the fields at a young age. A white plantation owner said to her that black people had “no need for education.” Minnie Lou Walker said, "You might have some black children somewhere, but they don’t live in this house. Don’t you ever come around here again talking about how my children don’t need to learn how to read and write.” Her mother enrolled Alice in first grade at the age of four.
Growing up with an oral tradition, listening to stories from her grandfather (the model for the character of Mr. in The Color Purple), Walker began writing, very privately, when she was eight years old. "With my family, I had to hide things," she said. "And I had to keep a lot in my mind."
In 1952, Walker was accidentally wounded in the right eye by a shot from a BB gun fired by one of her brothers. Because the family had no car, the Walkers could not take their daughter to a hospital for immediate treatment. By the time they reached a doctor a week later, she had become permanently blind in that eye. When a layer of scar tissue formed over her wounded eye, Alice became self-conscious and painfully shy. Stared at and sometimes taunted, she felt like an outcast and turned for solace to reading and to writing poetry. When she was 14, the scar tissue was removed. She later became valedictorian and was voted most-popular girl, as well as queen of her senior class, but she realized that her traumatic injury had some value: it allowed her to begin "really to see people and things, really to notice relationships and to learn to be patient enough to care about how they turned out".
After high school, Walker went to Spelman College in Atlanta on a full scholarship in 1961 and later transferred to Sarah Lawrence College near New York City, graduating in 1965. Walker became interested in the U.S. civil rights movement in part due to the influence of activist Howard Zinn, who was one of her professors at Spelman College. Continuing the activism that she participated in during her college years, Walker returned to the South where she became involved with voter registration drives, campaigns for welfare rights, and children's programs in Mississippi.
Alice Walker met Martin Luther King Jr. when she was a student at Spelman College in Atlanta in the early 1960s. Walker credits King for her decision to return to the American South as an activist for the Civil Rights Movement. She marched with hundreds of thousands in August in the 1963 March on Washington. As a young adult, she volunteered to register black voters in Georgia and Mississippi. On March 8, 2003, International Women's Day, on the eve of the Iraq War, Alice Walker, along with Maxine Hong Kingston, author of The Woman Warrior; Terry Tempest Williams, author of An Unspoken Hunger; and 24 others were arrested for crossing a police line during an anti-war protest rally outside the White House. Walker and 5,000 activists associated with the organizations Code Pink and Women for Peace marched from Malcolm X Park in Washington D.C. to the White House. The activists encircled the White House. In an interview with Democracy Now, Walker said, "I was with other women who believe that the women and children of Iraq are just as dear as the women and children in our families, and that, in fact, we are one family. And so it would have felt to me that we were going over to actually bomb ourselves." Walker wrote about the experience in her essay, "We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For."
In November 2008, Alice Walker wrote "An Open Letter to Barack Obama" that was published online by The Root. Walker addressed the newly elected President as "Brother Obama" and writes "Seeing you take your rightful place, based solely on your wisdom, stamina, and character, is a balm for the weary warriors of hope, previously only sung about."
In January 2009, she was one of over 50 signers of a letter protesting the Toronto International Film Festival's "City to City" spotlight on Israeli filmmakers, condemning Israel as an "apartheid regime."
In March 2009, Alice Walker traveled to Gaza along with a group of 60 other female activists from the anti-war group Code Pink, in response to the Gaza War. Their purpose was to deliver aid, to meet with NGOs and residents, and to persuade Israel and Egypt to open their borders into Gaza. She planned to visit Gaza again in December 2009 to participate in the Gaza Freedom March. On June 23, 2011, she announced plans to participate in an aid flotilla to Gaza that attempted to break Israel's naval blockade. Explaining her reasons, she cited concern for the children and that she felt that "elders" should bring "whatever understanding and wisdom we might have gained in our fairly long lifetimes, witnessing and being a part of struggles against oppression."
In a June 2011 interview, Walker described the United States and Israel as "terrorist organizations" stating "When you terrorize people, when you make them so afraid of you that they are just mentally and psychologically wounded for life -- that's terrorism." Walker supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel.
Personal life 
In 1965, Walker met Melvyn Rosenman Leventhal, a Jewish civil rights lawyer. They were married on March 17, 1967 in New York City. Later that year the couple relocated to Jackson, Mississippi, becoming "the first legally married inter-racial couple in Mississippi". They were harassed and threatened by whites, including the Ku Klux Klan. The couple had a daughter Rebecca in 1969. Walker and her daughter became estranged. Walker and her husband divorced amicably in 1976.
Walker wrote, "At one point I learned Transcendental Meditation. This was 30-something years ago. It took me back to the way that I naturally was as a child growing up way in the country, rarely seeing people. I was in that state of oneness with creation and it was as if I didn't exist except as a part of everything"." Alice Walker
Writing career 
Walker's first book of poetry was written while she was a senior at Sarah Lawrence. She took a brief sabbatical from writing while working in Mississippi in the civil rights movement. Walker resumed her writing career when she joined Ms. magazine as an editor before moving to northern California in the late 1970s. Her 1975 article "In Search of Zora Neale Hurston", published in Ms. magazine, helped revive interest in the work of Zora Neale Hurston, who inspired Walker's writing and subject matter. In 1973, Walker and fellow Hurston scholar Charlotte D. Hunt discovered Hurston's unmarked grave in Ft. Pierce, Florida. The women collaborated to buy a modest headstone for the gravesite.
In addition to her collected short stories and poetry, Walker's first novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland, was published in 1970. In 1976, Walker's second novel, Meridian, was published. The novel dealt with activist workers in the South during the civil rights movement, and closely paralleled some of Walker's own experiences.
In 1982, Walker published what has become her best-known work, the novel The Color Purple. About a young troubled black woman fighting her way through not only racist white culture but also patriarchal black culture, it was a resounding commercial success. The book became a bestseller and was subsequently adapted into a critically acclaimed 1985 movie as well as a 2005 Broadway musical.
Walker has written several other novels, including The Temple of My Familiar and Possessing the Secret of Joy (which featured several characters and descendants of characters from The Color Purple). She has published a number of collections of short stories, poetry, and other published work. She expresses the struggles of black people, particularly women, and their lives in a racist, sexist, and violent society. Her writings also focus on the role of women of color in culture and history. Walker is a respected figure in the liberal political community for her support of unconventional and unpopular views as a matter of principle.
In 2007, Walker gave her papers, 122 boxes of manuscripts and archive material, to Emory University's Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library. In addition to drafts of novels such as The Color Purple, unpublished poems and manuscripts, and correspondence with editors, the collection includes extensive correspondence with family members, friends and colleagues, an early treatment of the film script for The Color Purple, syllabi from courses she taught, and fan mail. The collection also contains a scrapbook of poetry compiled when Walker was 15, entitled "Poems of a Childhood Poetess."
Selected awards and honors 
- Ingram Merrill Foundation Fellowship (1967)
- Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (1983) for The Color Purple
- National Book Award for Fiction (1983) for The Color Purple[a]
- O. Henry Award for "Kindred Spirits" 1985.
- Honorary Degree from the California Institute of the Arts (1995)
- American Humanist Association named her as "Humanist of the Year" (1997)
- The Lillian Smith Award from the National Endowment for the Arts
- The Rosenthal Award from the National Institute of Arts & Letters
- The Radcliffe Institute Fellowship, the Merrill Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship
- The Front Page Award for Best Magazine Criticism from the Newswoman's Club of New York
- Induction to the California Hall of Fame in The California Museum for History, Women, and the Arts (2006)
- Domestic Human Rights Award from Global Exchange (2007)
- The LennonOno Grant for Peace (2010)
Selected works 
Novels and short story collections 
Poetry collections 
Non-fiction books 
- "National Book Awards - 1983". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-15.
(With essays by Anna Clark and Tarayi Jones from the Awards 60-year anniversary blog.)
- "Fiction". Past winners and finalists by category. The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 2012-03-17.
- Touring the Backroads of North and South Georgia (1997) Victoria Logue, Frank Logue, John F. Blair Publishing, p165 ISBN 978-0-89587-171-8
- World Authors 1995-2000, 2003. Biography Reference Bank database. Retrieved 2009-04-10.
- Walker, Alice (May 6, 2010). "Alice Walker". The Tavis Smiley Show. The Smiley Group, Inc.
- White, Evelyn C. (2004). Alice Walker: A Life. New York, New York: W.W. Norton & Company. pp. 14–15.
- Gussow, Mel (December 26, 2000). "Once Again, Alice Walker Is Ready to Embrace Her Freedom to Change". The New York Times. section E, p.1.
- Walker, Alice (2006). "Beauty: When the Other Dancer is the Self" (PDF). Kingsberry. Retrieved 2012-08-29.
- On Finding Your Bliss. Interview by Evelyn C. White October 1998. Retrieved 2007-06-14.
- Democracy Now - Walker Interview transcript and audio file on "Inner Light in A time of darkness". Retrieved 2010-02-10.
- Democracy Now video on the African American Vote. Retrieved 2010-02-10.
- Press release "Notable Women Arrested Protesting Against the War with Iraq". Retrieved 2010-02-12.
- Open Letter to Obama. Retrieved 2010-02.
- "Toronto film festival ignites anti-Israel boycott". Washington Times. 2009-09-05. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
- Gaza Freedom March. Retrieved 2010-02.
- Ravid, Barak (June 23, 2011). "Author Alice Walker to take part in Gaza flotilla, despite U.S. warning". Haaretz Daily Newspaper. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
- Urquhart, Conal (June 26, 2011). "Israel accused of trying to intimidate Gaza flotilla journalists". The Guardian (London).
- Foreign Policy' June 23, 2011 "Interview with Alice Walker".
- Alice Walker: Why I'm sailing to Gaza
- http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21577393-campaign-boycott-israel-threatens-spoil-some-palestinians-fun Palestinians in Israel: Boycotting the boycotters
- Times article The day feminist icon Alice Walker resigned as my mother
- "Inner Light in a Time of Darkness: A Conversation with Author and Poet Alice Walker". Democracy Now!. November 17, 2006. Archived from the original on 13 June 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-14.
- Guardian Article Friday 15 December 2006 - Interview with Walker No Retreat. Retrieved 2010-05.
- Circling Faith: Southern Women on Spirituality, Wendy Reed, Jennifer Horne, University of Alabama Press, 2012, p185 ISBN 9780817317676
- Extract from Alice Walker, Anything We Love Can Be Saved: A Writer's Activism, The Women's Press Ltd, 1997.
- Walker, Alice. "Everyday Use". Perrine's Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense, Comp. Thomas R. Arp. New York: Harcourt Brace College, 1994, pp. 90-97.
- Justice, Elaine. "Alice Walker Places Her Archive at Emory" Emory University News, December 18, 2007
White, Evelyn C. (2005). Alice Walker: A Life. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-32826-4.
Walker, Alice and Parmar, Pratibha (1993). Warrior Marks: Female Genital Mutilation and the Sexual Blinding of Women. Diane Books Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0-7881-5581-9.
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||This article's use of external links may not follow Wikipedia's policies or guidelines. (August 2012)|
- Alice Walker's official website
- Profile at the Poetry Foundation
- Profile at Poets.org
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Alice Walker on Charlie Rose
- Alice Walker at the Internet Movie Database
- Works by or about Alice Walker in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Alice Walker at ZSpace
- Alice Walker collected news and commentary at The Guardian
- Alice Walker collected news and commentary at The New York Times
- Interview on the nature of a writer’s social responsibilities Lannan Foundation (Audio, 15 mins) August 21, 1987
- New Georgia Encyclopedia
- Interview with Alice Walker by ascent magazine
- Shambhala Sun Magazine Interview
- Alice Walker's archives at Emory University. Profile, audio files, archive at the James Weldon Johnson Institute, Emory
- "Toxic Culture of Globalization", from Democracy Now! October 27, 2004. "'I am a Renegade, an Outlaw, a Pagan' interview February 13, 2006. "Pacifica Radio at 60" April 15, 2009 "Overcoming Speechlessness" April 13, 2010
- Alice Walker at the Internet Movie Database
- "Alice Walker on 30th Anniv. of "The Color Purple": Racism, Violence Against Women Are Global Issues", from Democracy Now! September 28, 2012.