Alice Walker was born February 9, 1944 to parents Minnie Tallulah Grant and Willie Lee Walker in Eatonton, Georgia. Her parents were sharecroppers and her mother worked as a maid to help to supplement the family income. She was the youngest of 8 children. At the age of 8 years old, one of her brothers accidentally shot her in the right eye with a BB gun while playing a game of Cowboys and Indians. She became partially blind and developed scar tissue in her eye. She was teased by her classmates and felt misunderstood by her family, which caused her to become a shy and withdrawn young lady.
New Georgia Encyclopedia, 2012) “For a long time, I thought I was very ugly and disfigured,” she told John O’Brien in an interview that was published in Alice Walker: Critical Perspectives, Past and Present. “This made me shy and timid, and I often reacted to insults and slights that were not intended. ” (Biography. com) It was then that she became fond of reading and writing poetry. Six years later doctors removed the scar tissue from her eye and she later became high school prom queen as well as her class valedictorian.
Although she didn’t feel quite as embarrassed about her eye, she still felt like an outsider and continued to find solace in reading and writing. (New Georgia Encyclopedia, 2012) In 1961 she received a state scholarship to Spelman College in Atlanta and while in attendance became active in the Civil Rights Movement. After 2 years at Spelman, she transferred to Sarah Lawrence College in New York. There she continued to be involved in the Civil Rights Movement and received her BA degree in 1965. She also worked as social worker in New York as well as registered black voters in Liberty Town, Georgia.
New Georgia Encyclopedia, 2012) In 1967 Alice married white civil rights attorney, Melvyn Rosenman Leventhal. They lived in Jackson, Mississippi. In 1969 they had daughter, Rebecca Grant. This was the same year that she completed her first novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland. Alice’s marriage ended in 1976 and she left Mississippi. While in Jackson she worked as the black history consultant for a Head Start program and served as the writer-in-residence for Jackson State College and Tougaloo College.
She also worked as a teacher and lecturer at several colleges and universities after she graduated from college and in later years. (New Georgia Encyclopedia, 2012) Some of Alice Walker’s works include her first collection of poetry, Once, which was published in 1968; a set of short stories, In Love and Trouble; the poetry collection Revolutionary Petunias; and her first children’s book, Langston Hughes: American Poet. She is most known for her novel, The Color Purple, published in 1982, for which she won both the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction in 1983. Biography. com) The novel was made into a movie directed by Steven Spielberg, in 1985 and then became a Broadway musical in 2005.
After The Color Purple, she wrote The Same River Twice: Honoring the Difficult (1996), The Temple of My Familiar (1989) and Possessing the Secret of Joy (1992). Some of her most recent works include, Overcoming Speechlessness: A Poet Encounters the Horror in Rwanda, Eastern Congo and Palestine/Israel (2010); a poetry collection, Hard Times Require Furious Dancing (2010), and The Chicken Chronicles (2012).
To this day Alice Walker is still passionate about her writing and her involvement as an activist for all living beings. I analyzed Alice Walker’s interest in reading and writing poetry and her involvement in the Civil Rights movement using the sociocultural perspective in psychology. This perspective “emphasizes social interactions and cultural determinants of behavior and mental processes”. (Carpenter, Huffman2010) I believe that her social interactions as a child are how she came to love reading and writing poetry.
She was teased by her fellow classmates because of her scarred eye which in turn made her feel self-conscious and shy and she withdrew from the world around her. (Biography. com) I believe that she was comfortable in the solitude she found in reading and put her thoughts into her poetry. Also, growing up in the segregated South must have played a role in her decision to become a political activist as well as witnessing the injustices forced upon her parents as sharecroppers in the Jim Crow south.