Alice Malsenior Walker was born on February 9, 1944, to sharecroppers in rural northeast Georgia. She was the youngest of eight children and at a young age was partially blinded by a BB gun.
She enjoyed poetry and writing and excelled in school, later becoming her high school valedictorian. In 1961, she left small-town life to attend Spelman College in Atlanta on a scholarship. Here she visited the home of Martin Luther King Jr. and worked on Civil Rights causes.
A few years later, Walker transferred to Sarah Lawrence College in New York, where she would receive her bachelor’s degree. In 1965, she married Melvyn Rosenman Leventhal, a Jewish civil rights attorney, and moved to Mississippi.
By 1977, the couple divorced and she moved to California, where she lives to this day. Throughout her career, Walker has lectured on countless university campuses, worked as editor of Ms. Magazine, and introduced the public to the works of Zora Neale Hurston.
Her most notable works are Once, a poetry collection, and her novel The Color Purple, which was turned into a movie and later a Broadway play. It earned her the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
Alice Walker Landmarks
The town of Eatonton, Georgia was established in 1809 on Creek Indian lands and named for an officer in the First Barbary War. It’s also the hometown of Joel Chandler Harris.
Alice Walker lived her early life in the community, but few buildings remain from this time. The Alice Walker Driving Tour is a self-guided tour that brings visitors to her former church and family cemetery.
The Georgia Writers Hall of Fame, which Walker was inducted into in 2001, is located in Eatonton. It has exhibits on her life, along with those of Harris and Milledgeville native Flannery O’Connor.
This story from The Bitter Southerner examines O’Connor and Walker’s influence on their towns.
Alice Walker spent her first two years in college attending Spelman College in Atlanta, the oldest historically black college for women. It was founded in 1881 by Baptist missionaries and named for a family of antislavery activists.
In 2007, Walker donated over 100 pieces of manuscripts and archival documents to Emory University, also in Atlanta. They include drafts of her novels, unfinished poems, and letters with colleagues. It’s currently a part of the university’s Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library.
When she was first married, Alice Walker and her husband lived in Jackson, Mississippi. Here she worked as a black history consultant for the Head Start program.
Later, she was the writer-in-residence for Jackson State University and Tougaloo College, a historically black college. She also worked on her first novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland, in 1969. Her daughter was born the same year.
Alice Walker continues to live in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2016, she put her longtime home on the market in the Berkeley Hills.
Leave a Reply