Alice Walker: Writings on Race

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Alice Walker:
Writings on Race
David Turley
Lib. 316
Annemarie Hamlin

Alice Walker: Writings on Race
Alice Walker has spent her adult life writing about gender and race. Walker’s achievements include the Pulitzer Prize, the first African-American woman recipient of the National Book Award, and numerous other literary awards in her life (Walker, 2009). She has spent her life’s career engaging in activism and helping to improve race relations in the United States and abroad. Walker has openly admitted to being discriminated based on her color and gender. Many of her short stories and novels deal with how race and discrimination affect the everyday lives of women of color (Barnett, 2001). Alice Walker was born in Eatonton, Georgia in February of 1994. Walker, the youngest of eight children, grew up in poverty. Her parents, Willie Lee and Minnie Lou Walker, worked as a farmer and maid respectively. Their meager income was around three-hundred dollars a year (Walker, 2009). In Eatonton, life was hard for the Walkers. Minnie Lou was bombarded with racial discrimination while raising her children. The mentality of the South at that time was still one of people of color did not need an education. African-American children were expected to work in the fields, not attend classes. Minnie Lou was said to have told one property owner, “Don’t you ever come around here again talking about how my children don’t need to learn how to read and write” (Walker, 2009). Education was important to the Walker family. Alice enrolled in the first grade at the age of four. Throughout her childhood, Alice wrote privately. Walker attributes much of her writing to her memories of discrimination growing up (Walker, 2009). She was subjected to the cruelties of other children because of her race and a childhood incident with a BB gun. In 1952, Alice was accidentally shot in the eye with her brothers BB gun (Walker, 2009). Her parents, being low on money and no car, could not take their daughter to the hospital until a week later. At that point, Alice had become permanently blind in that eye. A scar developed that she thought to be unseemly. After the accident, Alice became a very shy person and began writing more and more about what it was like to struggle with prejudices (Barnett, 2001). At age fourteen, the scar would be removed and she has said that during the years with the scar she was able “to really see people and things, really to notice relationships and to learn to be patient enough to care about how they turned out” (Walker, 2009). Alice, throughout the rest of her school years, would excel in her studies and would graduate valedictorian. While enrolled in Spelman College in 1961, Alice met Martin Luther King Jr. Walker was a part of the 1963 March on Washington. Alice cites meeting Mr. King as the moment in her life that she threw herself in to advocating for equal rights (Walker, 2009). Walker transferred from Spelman to Sarah Lawrence and graduated in 1965. Later that same year Alice met the man who would become her husband, Mel Leventhal. The couple married in 1967. They soon moved to Jackson, Mississippi, becoming “the first legally married inter-racial couple in Mississippi” (White, 1997). Again, Alice would face discrimination and death threats based on her race. They had a daughter, Rebecca, in 1969. In 1976, the couple would divorce and Alice would never remarry (Walker, 2009). Throughout the rest of her adult life, Walker would write thirty-three pieces of fiction and non-fiction books. Among those, the most celebrated was the Pulitzer Prize winning The Color Purple in 1982. The novel dealt with a young African-American woman struggling to fight her way through a racist “white” culture and a male centered “black” culture. The book was later adapted into a movie in 1985 and is considered by many to be an American classic. Walker...