What is Alice Walker's thesis in her essay "In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In her essay "In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens" Alice Walker's thesis is that the creative spirit of the African-American woman finds itself embedded in the history of her mother and other women (their "gardens") who, although oppressed, expressed themselves in outlets that they were allowed.

Alice Walker's essay examines the black woman writer’s search for self-expression and the origins of her creativity through the connection to mothers and grandmothers. With this creativity that lay dormant in her ancestors, the woman artist can find meaning and richer, more meaningful expression. 

Therefore we must fearlessly pull out of ourselves and look at and identify with our lives the living creativity some of our great-grandmothers were not allowed to know. 

Walker contends that grandmothers and mothers, although inhibited by the world of which they were part, nevertheless imparted to their daughters the "creative spark," the "seed of the flower" that flourishes in the modern artist. Art became what Walker's and others' ancestors were allowed to make: gardens and quilts. Stories were told and handed down: "So many of the stories that I write are my mother's stories."

Guided by my heritage of a love of beauty and a respect for strength-in search of my mother's garden, I found my own.

Alice Walker uses the beautiful flower garden that her mother created that was always praised for its beauty and her perseverance as a metaphor for the black female's inherited creative soul and strength.