MAKERS Profile

Alice Walker

Pulitzer Prize Winning Author

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Alice Walker on living through poverty and racism; giving her ancestors a voice in "The Color Purple"; and the magic of art and life.
Growing up in the South prior to and during the Civil Rights Movement, had a major impact on the life and career of novelist, poet, and activist, Alice Walker. The eighth child of Georgia sharecroppers, Walker began writing, very privately, when she was eight years old. She went on to become valedictorian of her local school and to attend Spelman College and then Sarah Lawrence College on scholarships, graduating in 1965. Penning her first book of poetry her senior year of college, Walker is a prolific writer of poetry, children’s books, essays, short stories, and novels, most notably 1983's "The Color Purple" for which she won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction — the first African American woman to receive the award. The book also won the National Book Award, was made into Steven Spielberg’s 1985 Oscar-nominated film, and was adapted for the stage, opening on Broadway in 2005, and capturing a Tony Award for best leading actress in a musical in 2006.   Walker was active in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, and continues today to be an involved activist. She has spoken for the women's movement, the anti-apartheid movement, the anti-nuclear movement, and against female genital mutilation. Through her own publishing company, Wild Trees Press, and her work with Ms. magazine, Walker has introduced and championed the voices of numerous feminist and women of color authors. Her own work has been translated into more than two dozen languages, and her books have sold more than fifteen million copies.

More From Alice

Calling Women "Guys"
Walker finds the practice of women addressing fellow women as "guys" dangerous and revealing.

Overalls & Lipstick
From farm clothes to her Sunday best, Walker's mother provided a powerful model of a woman playing every role.

My Feminist Men
Walker on the positive effect of the women's movement and feminism on the men in he rlife.

Our Real American History
Most Americans didn't come over on the Mayflower. Walker on the importance of grappling with the oppressed lives of our ancestors.

Difference with Friedan
Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique did not speak for Walker and the working, black women with a different vision of feminism.

Pervasive Misogyny
Walker points out the pervasivenss of sexism, even in liberation struggles like the Civil Rights Movement.

The Voices of Ms.
Walker describes working with Ms. and the opportunity to publish women's unheard voices and expose misogny.

“The Color Purple” Muses
The stories that animate The Color Purple are the extraordinary tales that Walker gathered from her grandparents.

A Dangerous Marriage
Walker talks about working in Mississippi in the Civil Rights Movement and the danger of her interracial marriage.

Going to Africa
Walker talks about what she was searching for, and what she found, when she visited Africa in her early 20s.

Time in the Civil Rights Movement
Walker discusses her participation in the Civil Rights Movement, inspired by Martin Luther King.

Dad's 180
Walker considers how the weight of racism drove her once-progressive father to endorse traditional gender roles.