The African American author, Alice Walker, has been widely celebrated for her work, most notably the novel, The Color Purple, which granted her the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction. She is a force of perseverance and the image of a woman that can’t be broken when life is full of wonder.
Alice Malsenior Walker was born February 9, 1944, in Eatonton, Georgia. She was the youngest of eight children in a family of sharecroppers. Although she grew up poor, her upbringing was nothing of the sort. She had a creative mind that easily sprung imagination. While playing at eight years old, Walker’s brothers accidentally shot her in the right eye with a BB gun pellet. As a result, she felt self-conscious of her now permanently damaged eye. However, she found comfort in writing when her mother gifted her a typewriter. Despite the eye injury, she dove into a writing career early on.
Even though she grew up in the racially divided South, Walker still rose above torment. She graduated from high school as class valedictorian. From there, she accepted a scholarship and attended Spelman College, where she worked with vital causes close to her heart. Her acknowledgment by the Youth World Peace Festival granted her an invitation to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s home. Soon after, she traveled to hear Dr. King’s “ I Have A Dream” address.
Walker then transferred to Sarah Lawrence College to major in literature. While there, she also studied Latin poetry and history. Shortly after graduating in 1965, she published her very first short story. She moved to Mississippi and worked as a social worker, teacher and lecturer. Walker was adamant about equal rights for African Americans and played a great role in the civil rights movement. Her experiences and identity as a black woman shaped many of her short stories, novels, and poems at the time.
Literature Is Activism
There is no limit to what Alice Walker can do. She has proven that over a lifetime’s worth of her writing. She wrote seven novels, four children’s books, four collections of short stories, and a plethora of poetry collections. Her first collection of poetry, Once, appeared in 1968. It gives an insightful look at her moral dilemmas and innermost thoughts of the civil rights movement. Walker writes from experience and therefore does not shy away from the truth.
Her first novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland, established her voice as a gifted storyteller. Walker embeds the theme of survival in many of her works. In this epic, she emphasizes the racial oppression African American men and women face in society. She also aims to uncover the truth from the fake. Walker knows history is so often re-written by those who haven’t lived through it.
The 1982 epistolary novel, The Color Purple, became Alice Walker’s most famous book to date. Hence, she won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction 1983. The novel depicts the life of an African American teenager named Celie, who faces an unspeakable amount of trauma. However, she finds comfort in writing letters to God and her sister, Nettie. Upon self-reflection, Celie overcomes layers of abuse with triumph. She realizes independence can be her best asset. The emotional story highlights the power of strength. Walker shows us that women find strength even when they think they have none left.
Creation Is Legacy
There is no legacy as timeless as creation. Alice Walker’s legendary work is celebrated among all genres. She never limits herself to one. She leads with purpose and reminds the world to do the same. In fact, Walker detailed and mapped her intentions throughout all her works. Often, the main focus is on the triumph over racial oppression and the power of truth. The first African American to win a Pulitzer prize was honored with the O.Henry Award and the Mahmoud Darwish Literary Prize for Fiction. She is the leading example of someone who knows the power of their voice and isn’t afraid to use it.
Walker has impacted the world by her advocacy work for equal rights and giving black women’s voices and experience the primary spotlight in literature. The beloved writer and activist was later inducted into the California Hall of Fame in 2006. She also received the LennonOno Peace Award in 2010. Her legacy is as powerful as a single thought as it is the first step of creation.
Looking for more inspiring Black authors to learn about? Check out Ralph Ellison: A ‘God of America’s Literary Parnassus’