"It's so clear that you have to cherish everyone. I think that's what I get from these older black women, that every soul is to be cherished, that every flower Is to bloom." -- Alice Walker
Alice Malsenior Walker (born February 9, 1944) is an African American author and poet. She has written at length on issues of race and gender, and is most famous for the critically acclaimed novel The Color Purple for which she won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
"All History is current; all injustice continues on some level, somewhere in the world.""All partisan movements add to the fullness of our understanding of society as a whole. They never detract; or, in any case, one must not allow them to do so. Experience adds to experience.""And so our mothers and grandmothers have, more often than not anonymously, handed on the creative spark, the seed of the flower they themselves never hoped to see - or like a sealed letter they could not plainly read.""Any God I ever felt in church I brought in with me.""Anybody can observe the Sabbath, but making it holy surely takes the rest of the week.""Deliver me from writers who say the way they live doesn't matter. I'm not sure a bad person can write a good book, If art doesn't make us better, then what on earth is it for.""Don't wait around for other people to be happy for you. Any happiness you get you've got to make yourself.""Expect nothing. Live frugally on surprise.""For in the end, freedom is a personal and lonely battle; and one faces down fears of today so that those of tomorrow might be engaged.""Helped are those who create anything at all, for they shall relive the thrill of their own conception and realize a partnership in the creation of the Universe that keeps them responsible and cheerful.""Horses make a landscape look beautiful.""How simple a thing it seems to me that to know ourselves as we are, we must know our mothers names.""I have learned not to worry about love; but to honor its coming with all my heart.""I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it.""I think we have to own the fears that we have of each other, and then, in some practical way, some daily way, figure out how to see people differently than the way we were brought up to.""I try to teach my heart not to want things it can't have.""In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they're still beautiful.""In search of my mother's garden, I found my own.""Is solace anywhere more comforting than that in the arms of a sister.""It is healthier, in any case, to write for the adults one's children will become than for the children one's "mature" critics often are.""It no longer bothers me that I may be constantly searching for father figures; by this time, I have found several and dearly enjoyed knowing them all.""Life is better than death, I believe, if only because it is less boring, and because it has fresh peaches in it.""Never be the only one, except, possibly, in your own home.""No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.""Nobody is as powerful as we make them out to be.""People do not wish to appear foolish; to avoid the appearance of foolishness, they are willing to remain actually fools.""People tend to think that life really does progress for everyone eventually, that people progress, but actually only some people progress. The rest of the people don't.""Tea to the English is really a picnic indoors.""The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men.""The experience of God, or in any case the possibility of experiencing God, is innate.""The gift of loneliness is sometimes a radical vision of society or one's people that has not previously been taken into account.""The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any.""The most important question in the world is, 'Why is the child crying?'""The quietly pacifist peaceful always die to make room for men who shout.""The trouble with our people is as soon as they got out of slavery they didn't want to give the white man nothing else. But the fact is, you got to give em something. Either your money, your land, your woman or your ass.""There are those who believe Black people possess the secret of joy and that it is this that will sustain them through any spiritual or moral or physical devastation.""To me, the black black woman is our essential mother, the blacker she is the more us she is and to see the hatred that is turned on her is enough to make me despair, almost entirely, of our future as a people.""Us sing and dance, make faces and give flower bouquets, trying to be loved. You ever notice that trees do everything to git attention we do, except walk?""What the mind doesn't understand, it worships or fears.""Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.""Writing saved me from the sin and inconvenience of violence.""Yes, Mother. I can see you are flawed. You have not hidden it. That is your greatest gift to me."
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, while her mother supplemented the family income by working as a maid. Her mother worked 12 hours a day for USD $17 a week to help pay for Alice to attend college.
Living under Jim Crow Laws, Walker's mother had struggles with landlords who expected the children of black sharecroppers to work the fields at a young age. A white plantation owner once asserted to her that blacks had “no need for education.” Mrs. Walker’s response to him was ‘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.” When she was four years old, Alice was enrolled in the first grade, a year ahead of schedule.
Growing up with an oral tradition, listening to stories from her grandfather (the model for the character for Mr. in The Color Purple), Walker was writing...very privately...since 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 access to a car, the Walkers were unable to take their daughter to a hospital for immediate treatment, and when they finally brought her to a physician a week later, she was permanently blind in that eye. A disfiguring layer of scar tissue formed over it, rendering the previously outgoing child 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. Although when she was 14, the scar tissue was removed...and she subsequently became valedictorian and was voted most-popular girl, as well as queen of her senior class, 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," as she has said.
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 attended the famous 1963 March on Washington. As a young adult she volunteered her time registering voters in Georgia and Mississippi .
On March 8, 2003, International Women's Day, on the eve of the Iraq War, Alice Walker, Maxine Hong Kingston, author of "The Woman Warrior", and Terry Tempest Williams, author of "An Unspoken Hunger" were arrested along with 24 others for crossing a police line during an anti-war protest rally outside the White House. Walker and 5,000 other 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, holding hands and singing. In an interview with Democracy Now, Walker said of the incident, "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 on Theroot.com. Walker addresses 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 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 controversial Israeli offensive of December 2008-January 2009. The purpose of the trip 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 .
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.
In 1965, Walker met and later married Melvyn Roseman 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". This brought them a steady stream of harassment and even murderous threats from the Ku Klux Klan. The couple had a daughter, Rebecca, in 1969, whom she described in 2008 as "a living, breathing, mixed-race embodiment of the new America that they were trying to forge". Walker and her husband divorced amicably in 1976. Walker would later become estranged from her daughter, who felt herself to be more of "a political symbol... than a cherished daughter". Rebecca would later publish a memoir entitled Black White and Jewish, chronicling the effects of her parents' relationship on her childhood.
In the mid-1990s, Walker was involved in a romance with singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman.
Walker's first book of poetry was written while she was still a senior at Sarah Lawrence, and she took a brief sabbatical from writing when she was in Mississippi working 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. An article she published in 1975 was largely responsible for the renewal of interest in the work of Zora Neale Hurston, who was a large source of inspiration for 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. Both women paid for 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 would publish what has become her best-known work, the novel The Color Purple. The story of a young black woman fighting her way through not only racist white culture but patriarchal black culture 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 play.
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) and has published a number of collections of short stories, poetry, and other published work.
Her works typically focus on the struggles of blacks, particularly women, and their struggle against 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.
Additionally, Walker has published several short stories, including the 1973 Everyday Use, in which she discusses feminism, racism against blacks, and the issues raised by young black people who leave home and lose respect for their parents' culture.
In 2007, Walker gave 122 boxes of manuscripts and archive material to Emory University's Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library. In addition to drafts of writings such as The Color Purple, unpublished poems and writings, 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 that was never used, 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".
In 2009, she was one of the signers of a letter protesting the inclusion of films about Israel at the Toronto Film Festival.