Classic Views of American Life: Pulitzer-Prize-Winning Fiction

Alice Walker

The Color Purple


  • Born in 1944 in Eatonton, Georgia to parents who were sharecroppers.
  • Educated at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, and Sarah Lawrence College in New York.
  • Active in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
  • Married to Mel Levanthal, a young Jewish civil right lawyer in the late sixties; divorced; began a thirteen-year relationship with Robert Allen, editor of "Black Scholar" soon after her divorce in the late seventies.


  • The Color Purple awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.
  • Published her first short story "To Hell With Dying" at twenty-one while still a student at Sarah Lawrence.
  • Taught at Jackson State University and later Wellesley College.
  • Became an editor for Ms magazine during the mid-1970s.
  • Moved to Mendocino, California, where she still lives and writes. Founded Wild Trees Press, to publish the works of black and women writers.
  • Often focuses on the sexual and racial relationships within the black community (some black critics have felt she deals too harshly with black males) and on the connections between community and family.

Major Writings

The Third Life of Grange Copeland (1970), fiction
In Love and Trouble (1973), short stories
Revolutionary Petunias (1973), poems
Meridian (1976), fiction
You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down (1981), short stories
The Color Purple (1982), fiction
In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose (1983), essays
Horses Make a Landscape Look More Beautiful (1985), poems
Living By the Word: Selected Writings, 1973-1987 (1988), essays
Temple of My Familiar (1989), fiction
Possessing the Secret of Joy (1992), fiction

Critical Sources and Reviews

  • Biographical and critical information in Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series, Vol. 49, and Contemporary Literary Criticism, Vol. 58 .
  • New York Times Book Review, July 25, 1982 ("Some Letters Went to God" by Mel Watkins) [book archive search: "Color Purple"]

Alice Walker Online

Alice Walker site, Voices From the Gaps: Women Writers of Color

Resources for Alice Walker, Catherine Lavender, College of Staten Island

Biography, study questions, links to many other Walker sites.

Alice Walker Biography

Alice Walker Study Guide

This brief biography and study questions were prepared by one of the WCH book discussion scholars.  (Please let us know if you are the author.)

Retired Discussion Series

Debbie Sturman, Director
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