On this day in 1944, Alice Walker is born in Eatonton, Georgia, the youngest of eight children born to sharecroppers. In their poor, rural community, Walker’s mother set an example of generosity and community support by taking in children whose families couldn’t care for them. Walker treasured her close relationship with her mother for many years.
A shooting accident when Walker was eight left her blind in one eye. She attended Spelman College in Atlanta on a scholarship for the disabled and traveled to the Soviet Union and Africa as part of study programs. She transferred to Sarah Lawrence College in New York and graduated in 1965. She moved to Mississippi, became a civil rights activist, and wrote poetry. Her first collection was published in 1968. She married a fellow activist, Mel Leventhal, but the marriage dissolved. In 1970, she published her first novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland, about emotional dynamics through three generations of an African-American family. Her second novel, Meridian(1976), follows a young woman in the civil rights movement.
In the mid-’70s, Walker moved to Northern California, where she wrote her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Color Purple (1982; film, 1985), about an abused and uneducated black woman. Her later novels include The Temple of My Familiar (1989) and Possessing the Secret of Joy (1992).