Alice Walker is a celebrated novelist, poet, and social activist. Born in Eatonton, Georgia in 1944 she is best known for her 1982 novel The Color Purple, which won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction. While you may know her writing, you can learn a little bit more about her through these six facts.
1. Alice Walker is blind in one eye.
When she was eight years old, Walker was accidentally shot in the eye with her brother’s BB gun. Scar tissue proceeded to grow over her eye and Walker retreated to more solitary activities, such as writing. When she was 14 the scar tissue was removed, but Walker never regained function of her eye.
Related: In Conversation with Alice Walker
2. Alice Walker and her husband had the first legal interracial marriage in Mississippi.
In 1967, Alice married Melvyn Rosenman Leventhal, a Jewish civil rights attorney. The two became the first legally married interracial couple in Mississippi, though they later divorced in 1976.
3. Alice Walker helped the world rediscover Zora Neale Hurston.
After reading Hurston's 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, Walker set out to learn more about Hurston’s work. Though she discovered Hurston after she had already passed, Walker travelled to her hometown of Eatonville, Florida to understand the influence on her writing. She wrote of her journey in her 1975 piece Looking For Zora, which revived interest in Hurston’s work.
4. Alice Walker even put a marker on Zora Neale Hurston’s grave.
Following Hurston’s death in 1960, she was buried in an unmarked grave in Florida. However, in 1973 Walker traveled to Florida in search of Hurston’s grave. Upon finding the grave which she deemed to be Hurston’s, Walker put a marker on her grave that stated “Zora Neale Hurston, A Genius of the South. Novelist, folklorist, anthropologist."
5. The Color Purple's Shug Avery was based on Ma Rainey.
Ma Rainey was an influential African American Blues artist, born in the late 1800s. Also known as “The Mother of the Blues,” Alice Walker used her as inspiration when creating one of her most famous characters. Netflix also released a new movie this past October centered around Ma Rainey, titled Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
6. The Color Purple is being adapted into another movie.
In 1985 Steven Spielberg adapted The Color Purple into a movie, which became a box office hit grossing $142 million. In 2005, the novel was then turned into a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, which ran for three years. In 2018, Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Quincy Jones, and Scott Sanders announced they would be transforming the Broadway musical into a big screen musical. The new musical has a set release date of December 2023.
Featured image courtesy of Open Road Media.