Alice Walker Biography

Alice Walker Biography

Alice Walker was the eighth child of sharecroppers. Despite the economic hardships of her family, she was remarkably dedicated to her education and graduated with degrees from both Sarah Lawrence and Spelman College. While attending school, Walker became frustrated with the lack of literature on the culture and history of the black experience, so she challenged educational institutions to create a representative curriculum. In the 1960s, Walker became involved in the civil rights movement. Her experiences became the basis for her excellent novel Meridian. Her best-known work, however, is The Color Purple. Critics and audiences alike have praised its richly drawn female characters and seemingly effortless use of black vernacular. With six novels to her name, Walker also remains very active politically, championing women’s issues and women’s work.

Facts and Trivia

  • Alice Walker was the first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction (1983) for her novel The Color Purple. The book was also turned into a successful film, garnering eleven Academy Award nominations.
  • Walker and her then-husband Melvyn Leventhal, who was white and Jewish, were the first racially integrated couple to live in Mississippi.
  • Walker did not simply complain about the lack of black studies in colleges. She created and taught the first class in the United States to be devoted to African American women writers at Wellesley College.
  • Walker has said that she considers herself to be a “pagan” or “an earth-worshipper.” She says she meditates daily and views Christmas as a celebration of the solstice.
  • Walker coined the term womanist, a word she derived from the common phrase “you’re acting womanish.” Walker wants to turn the negative connotation of the phrase into something positive, so she defines womanist as “a woman who loves other women sexually or non-sexually and men sexually and non-sexually. Loves music, loves to dance...loves the spirit. A woman is to feminist as lavender is to purple.”
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