THE RELEVANT QUEER: Alice Walker, Novelist, Activist & Conspiracy Theorist

Alice Walker , Best known for her novel 'The Color Purple', poses for portrait at home in San Francisco in January, 1985. Photo by Mikki Ansin, Getty Images
Alice Walker , Best known for her novel ‘The Color Purple‘, poses for portrait at home in San Francisco in January, 1985. Photo by Mikki Ansin, Getty Images

“Love, however it may be expressed, is to be honored and welcomed into the light of our common survival as a consciously human race.”

TRQ: Alice Walker, Born February 9, 1944

Novelist, poet, activist and conspiracy theorist Alice Walker was born on February 9, 1944. Walker is most known for her novel The Color Purple (1982), for which she won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction and the National Book Award.

Unfortunately, multiple accusations of antisemitism and her propensity for endorsing conspiracy theories have ravaged Walker’s reputation. Even her harshest critics, however, acknowledge her contribution in shedding light on the rich complexity of African American culture and Black feminism.

Alice Malsenior Walker was born in Eatonton, Georgia, to a family of sharecroppers. She is the youngest of eight children. When she was eight years old, Walker was accidentally blinded by her brother. Excused from doing chores afterwards, she devoted her attention to writing with her mother’s typewriter.

Valedictorian of her class at the segregated Butler Baker High School, Walker studied at Spelman College and Sarah Lawrence College, where she graduated in 1965. During her years at Spelman she met Martin Luther King Jr., which influenced her participation in the Civil Rights Movement. After graduation, she worked for the Department of Welfare in New York.

In 1967 she married Jewish civil rights lawyer Melvyn Rosenman Leventhal. They moved to Jackson Mississippi later that year, and the interracial couple faced harassment by white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan. In 1968 she published Once, her first book of poetry inspired by an abortion and suicidal thoughts. In 1969, Walker and Leventhal’s daughter Rebecca was born. Seven years later, Walker and Leventhal divorced.

In 1970 Walker published her first novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland. The novel’s narrative around an abusive sharecropper husband and father spans 60 years. In 1972, she taught at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. A year later, she published Revolutionary Petunias and Other Poems and In Love and Trouble: Stories of Black Women.

After moving back to New York, Walker published her second novel, Meridian (1976), describing the experiences of civil rights activists. After moving to California, she published The Color Purple (1982), her most well known and hugely influential work. The best-selling novel follows its narrator Celie through her struggle with white racism, as well as abuse from her father and husband.

Director Steven Spielberg cast Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg in the 1985 film adaptation which received eleven Academy Award nominations. In 2005, the novel was adapted into a Broadway musical produced by Oprah Winfrey and Quincy Jones.

Walker later wrote, “[Celie] is based on the life of my grandmother, Rachel, a kind and loving woman brutally abused by my grandfather… It is safe to say, after a frightful life serving and obeying abusive men, who raped in place of ‘making love,’ my grandmother, like Celie, was not attracted to men.”

In the 1990s Walker claimed to be in a relationship with singer Tracy Chapman, which the signer has neither confirmed nor denied.

Unfortunately, serious interest in Walker’s current work is nonexistent. As early as 2013, she actively supported the work of anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists. Walker has publicly endorsed the work of Holocaust deniers and has taken to self-publishing her own anti-Semitic writing. She currently lives in Mendocino, California.

Rebecca Walker and Alice Walker, n.d. Photo Unknown
Alice Walker, n.d. Photo Unknown
Alice Walker as she poses outside her home, San Francisco CA, 1989. photo Anthony Barboza, Getty Images
Alice Walker portrait, circa 1990. Photo Jim Marshall
Alice Walker in her home, San Francisco, CA, 1989. Photo Anthony Barboza, Getty Images
Alice Walker signing books at Charis Books, May 9, 1989. Photo Charis Books and More
Alice Walker won a Pulitzer Prize, 1983. Photo Chronicle File Photo
Alice Walker, n.d. Photo Unknown
Alice Walker , Best known for her novel ‘The Color Purple‘, poses for portrait at home in San Francisco in January, 1985. Photo by Mikki Ansin, Getty Images

About the Authors

Troy Wise is currently a PhD student at UAL Central St Martins and teaches fashion and graphic design at London College of Contemporary Arts. His background is in marketing and is founder and co-editor of Image Amplified. He lives in, and is continually fascinated by, the city of London.

Rick Guzman earned his most recent MA at UAL Central St Martins in Applied Imagination in the Creative Industries. He currently holds two MA’s and an MBA in the New Media, Journalism and International Business fields. Co-editor at Image Amplified since its start, he lives in London, is fascinated by history and is motivated by continuing to learn and explore.





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