Biography of Alice Walker

Alice Walker was born on February 9, 1944 in Putnam County, Georgia. She is an accomplished American poet, novelist, and activist. Walker was the eighth and youngest child of Minnie Tallulah Grant Walker and Willie Lee Walker. Her father was a poor sharecropper who once remarked that Alice was "wonderful at math but a terrible farmer." In the summer of 1952, Walker was blinded in her right eye by a BB gun pellet while playing with her brother. Alice grew up in an environment rife with racism and poverty, which, along with her passion for gender issues, remains a large part of her narratives.

To help send her to college, Walker's mother worked eleven-hour days as a maid for a meager seventeen dollars a week. (White) Walker flourished in an academic environment. After two years at Spelman College, she received a scholarship to Sarah Lawrence College in New York. She became one of a chosen few young black students to attend the prestigious school. Walker was involved with many civil rights demonstrations, and in 1962 she was invited to the home of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

After graduating in 1965, Walker became a social worker and teacher, while remaining heavily invested and involved in the Civil Rights Movement. As a writer in residence at Jackson State College and Tougaloo College, she taught poetry while working on her own poetry and fiction. She contributed to groundbreaking feminist Ms. magazine in the late 60s, writing a piece about the unappreciated work of African-American author Zora Neale Hurston. Her first novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland was published in 1970. Meridian, Walker's second novel was published six years later.

She wrote the critically acclaimed novel The Color Purple (1982) for which she won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The novel was adapted into an acclaimed film directed by Steven Spielberg in 1985, starring Whoopi Goldberg as protagonist Celie Harris. The novel and film trace Celie's life in the early 20th century American south, and her struggles with poverty, racism, sexism and violence, and the female friendship that empowers her.

Walker's work, including Everyday Use, can be found in many popular anthologies of American fiction and poetry. She continues to be a prominent social and political activist.

Study Guides on Works by Alice Walker

In her preface to the Tenth Anniversary Edition of The Color Purple, Walker explains: “This book is the book in which I was able to express a new spiritual awareness, a rebirth into strong feelings of Oneness I realized I had experienced and taken...

Everyday Use was first published in 1973 as part of the short story collection In Love and Trouble: Stories of Black Women. These stories span multi-generational periods and interconnect Black women from the American South, New York City and...

Alice Walker set to work on a new novel shortly after filing for divorce from her husband in 1976. In the three years since the publication of her short story collection In Love and Trouble, Walker had become a contributing editor at Ms. Magazine,...