Black History Month is an important time of year in which Americans may acknowledge the gap in society’s history. American students learn firsthand and in class that much of black history has been lost and forgotten while predominately white histories have prevailed. Celebrating Black History Month, learning about important African American figures, and making these histories part of the conversation again is part of slowly chipping away at the internalized racism that still exists in the nation’s collective mindset.
In honor of Black History Month, Feb. 9 is set aside to celebrate Alice Walker’s birthday. Walker is a novelist, poet, and activist who is most known for her novel, “The Color Purple,” which was later adapted into both a film and an award winning musical.
Walker was born Feb. 9, 1944 into a family of sharecroppers in Georgia. After graduating high school as the valedictorian of her class, Walker began studying at Spelman College and was active in the civil rights movement. She later transferred to Sarah Lawrence College to study writing without the restrictions she faced at Spelman. Following her graduation with honors, Walker began working at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund towards the establishment of civil rights for poor African Americans in the deep south.
Walker went on to write seven novels, four collections of short stories, and volumes of poetry and essays.
Most notably, Walker’s “The Color Purple” was published in 1982. The story of “The Color Purple” follows a young African American woman in the southern U.S. during the mid-20th century. The novel explores the female African American’s experience with the pressures of both racist white culture as well as patriarchal black culture. Before the publication of “The Color Purple,” it was extremely rare for bestsellers to feature a female African American as the main character.