Alice Walker: Writer, Feminist, Humanist

Born in Eatonton, Georgia on February 9, 1944, Alice Walker was the youngest in a family of eight children. At the age of eight, young Alice was shot in the eye with a BB gun by her brother. This traumatic experience caused the child to become a shy and relatively reclusive young person. When the scar tissue was removed after six years of embarrassment and teasing from her classmates, her shyness waned a bit, but she always preferred the solitude of writing poetry and reading. She eventually became valedictorian of her class and even prom queen, but her passion for literature and poetry remained with her for the rest of her high school career.

Alice Walker attended Spelman College in Atlanta for two years and then moved on to Sarah Lawrence College in New York where she received her B.A. Working in the civil rights movement during her time at Spelman College and Sarah Lawrence College, Alice Walker was invited to the home of Martin Luther King Jr. for her attendance in Finland at the Youth World Peace Festival.

In 1965, Walker met and began dating Mel Leventhal, a Jewish civil rights lawyer who she eventually married in 1967. The couple divorced in 1976 and had one child, Rebecca in 1969.

The Color Purple is one of the works of this prolific poet and feminist writer that is best known throughout the world. Her work as a feminist and in particular a womanist has vaulted her into the public eye. A womanist, as described by Walker, is a feminist of color or a black feminist. This theory of feminism was first introduced in the 1980s by Walker herself. After being excluded by feminists, women of color now insist that feminism addresses different locations and subjectivities on various issues as it relates to women. This is particularly focused on the difference of race and how it affects feminism.

Alice Walker chooses the womanist theory of feminism because she feels it fits her particular circumstances in a better way than feminism. Some have charged that Walker’s brand of feminism has concluded that black women feminists are superior in strength to white feminist women, although the claim is dismissed by Walker herself. She simply sees womanism as a complement to the feminist movement.

The womanist movement also gives black women a means of speaking on gender issues without attacking black men. In relation to the survival of the black community, issues such as (dating) and gender equality are addressed in a more complete way by womanism than feminism.

Alice Walker's Works

  • Once: Poems (1968)
  • The Third Life of Grange Copeland (1970)
  • Revolutionary Petunias & Other Poems (1973)
  • In Love & Trouble: Stories of Black Women (1973)
  • Langston Hughes, American Poet (1974)
  • Meridian (1976)
  • I love Myself When I Am Laughing (1979)
  • Good Night, Willie Lee, I’ll See You in the Morning (1979)
  • You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down: Stories (1981)
  • The Color Purple (1982)
  • In Search of Our Mother’s Garden: Womanist Prose (1984)
  • Horses Make a Landscape Look More Beautiful (1984)
  • To Hell With Dying (1988)
  • Living by the Word (1988)
  • The Temple of My Familiar (1989)
  • Her Blue Body Everything We Know: Earthling Poems of 1965-1990 (1991)
  • Finding the Green Stone (1991)
  • Possessing the Secret of Joy (1992)
  • Warrior Marks (1993)
  • Alice Walker: Banned (1996)
  • The Same River Twice: Honoring the Difficult (1996)
  • Anything We Love Can Be Saved: A Writer’s Activism (1997)
  • By the Light of My Father’s Smile (1998)
  • The Way Forward is With a Broken Heart (2000)
  • Sent by Earth: A Message from the Grandmother Spirit After the Bombing of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon (2001)
  • Absolute Trust in the Goodness of the Earth: New Poems (2003)
  • A Poem Traveled Down My Arm: Poems and Drawings (2003)
  • Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart (2004)
  • Pema Chodron And Alice Walker in Conversation: audio (2005)
  • There Is a Flower at the Tip of My Nose Smelling Me (2006)
  • We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For (2006)

Useful Alice Walker Resources

  • Artist Biography: Alice Walker - A useful biography and bibliography of the works of Alice Walker and a criticism of her work.
  • Poets.org - a look at the poetry of Alice Walker and information on poetry for educators.
  • Alice Walker - biography and information in relation to other historical black women writers.
  • Anniina's Alice Walker Page - A listing of the chronology of Alice Walker’s life and work. Links to resources for more information on Alice Walker.
  • Alice Unbanned - Great resource for more information on Alice Walker, who is one of the most banned authors in the United States.

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