Despite the extreme poverty and racism she experienced as the daughter of sharecroppers, Pulitizer-Prize winning novelist Alice Walker remembers her childhood fondly in her appearance on Makers, a new video initiative profiling inspirational women of the past and present.
But an experience Walker had on her way to college set her on the path to become the accomplished writer we know today. Taking the bus to her new school, Walker sat in the front of a segregated bus, upsetting a white female passenger. Walker recalls what she thought as the bus driver forced her to move to the back of the bus with the other black passengers.
“I can refuse and sit in the front and get arrested in this little town,” she remembered thinking, “or I can stay on the bus, get to Atlanta, check into my college and immediately join the movement for civil rights.”
Walker took down testimonies of sharecroppers facing eviction, while writing poetry and fiction as well. She found that the lives of the people she knew and loved, like her mother, weren’t being told.
“She was all over my heart… so why shouldn’t she be in literature?” she asked. “If you deny people their own voice, you’ll have no idea of who they were.”
This feeling ultimately compelled her to write “The Color Purple,” which sold 5 million copies and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1983. The book has been adapted for the big screen (starring Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover and Oprah Winfrey) and Broadway.