This Day In History: February 9th
Award-winning writer Alice Walker used her life experiences to publish her first collection of poetry in 1968. Her work often depicts the life of African-American women and their experiences. Throughout her career, Walker’s novels have sold more than fifteen million copies and have been translated into more than two dozen languages.
Walker was born on February 9, 1944, in Eatonton, Georgia, and was the youngest of eight children. She grew up shy and found solace in reading after a traumatic childhood incident left her scarred. However, Walker excelled in school and was awarded a scholarship to Spelman College. While in college she also developed an interest in activism. She moved to New York in 1963 and continued her education at Sarah Lawrence College.
After graduating from college she published her first short story. Walker began working as a teacher and continued her involvement with the Civil Rights Movement. She also started to develop her philosophical stance on issues of gender and introduced the term “Womanist.” This influenced her writing and was shown through her focus on African-American women as the lead characters in her stories.
Her talents led her to explore a variety of writing forms including a short story and poetry collection as well as a children’s book. However, her success as a writer heightened with the publication of her third novel, The Color Purple, in 1982. The novel won her the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction the following year. It became so popular that director, Steven Spielberg, decided to take the story to the big screen. The film was released in 1985 and starred Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover. Walker published two novels, The Temple of My Familiar and Possessing the Secret of Joy, which incorporated characters and their relationships from The Color Purple.
Alice Walker has enjoyed more than five decades as a writer and proved her versatility with countless works. In 2006, she was honored as one of the inaugural inductees into the California Hall of Fame. She continued writing and published Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart in 2018. With all of her acclaimed short stories, poems and novels, Walker remains a celebrated writer.