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This Day in Georgia History

February 09, 1944

Alice Walker Born

Poet, novelist, and civil rights activist Alice Walker was born in Eatonton, Georgia. Walker became involved in the civil rights movement while attending Spelman College in Atlanta. In honor of being a participant in the Youth World Peace Festival she was invited to the home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1962. She participated in the March on Washington the following year and was present when King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. After two years at Spelman, Walker received a scholarship to Sarah Lawrence College in New York. It was here that her talent for writing was nurtured and encouraged. Upon graduating from Sarah Lawrence Walker returned to her native South and resumed her activities in the civil rights movement, while holding a number of teaching positions. She also continued to write, publishing her first volume of poetry - Once and her first novel - The Third Life of Grange Copeland. She went on to publish several more volumes of poetry, then her second novel, Meridian, earned her a Guggenheim Fellowship, which allowed her to devote full time to her writing. In 1982, Walker’s landmark work - The Color Purple - was published. It won a Pulitzer Prize and catapulted Walker into worldwide notoriety. While Walker had an active role in the making of the film version of her book, she did not write the screenplay and was not comfortable with the way her characters appeared on screen, though she expressed admiration for of the powerful performances. The movie debuted in her hometown of Eatonton, where she received a warm welcome and a parade in her honor. Meanwhile she continued to write, publishing essays, poetry, and in 1989 an epic novel - The Temple of My Familiar. More volumes of poetry followed, along with her fifth novel, Possessing the Secret Joy, in 1991. Throughout her professional life, Walker has also been active in the civil rights and feminist movements. Today, she lives in Mendocino, California.