One of the most prolific, versatile, and acclaimed of contemporary African American feminist authors, Alice Walker has earned widespread recognition for her considerable achievements as a fiction writer, poet, and essayist. Born in Eatonton, Georgia, in 1944, Walker was one of eight children of Willie Lee and Minnie Tallulah Grant Walker, both sharecroppers. Although her childhood of rural poverty was a difficult one, Walker gained strength and empowerment from her mother, whom she has honored as an important source of artistic inspiration in her essay “In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens.” An important feminist statement akin to Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own, Walker's essay situates her own work within a black matrilineal literary and artistic tradition.
Walker attended Spelman College in Atlanta and received her BA degree from Sarah Lawrence in New York in 1965. Between 1965 and 1968, she was extremely involved in the Civil Rights Movement, working on voter registration drives in Georgia, at a Head Start program in Mississippi, and at the Department of Welfare in New York City. In the 1960s and 1970s, she also taught at various colleges and universities. In 1967, she married Melvyn Roseman Leventhal, a white civil rights lawyer, with whom she had one daughter, Rebecca. They were amicably divorced in 1977.
In 1968, Walker published her first volume of verse, Once, based on her experiences in civil rights work and her travels to Africa, and she has continued to publish volumes of poetry, including: Revolutionary Petunias (1973); Good Night, Willie Lee, I'll See You in the Morning (1979); Horses Make a Landscape Look More Beautiful (1984); Her Blue Body Everything We Know: Earthling Poems, 1965-1990 Complete (1991); and Absolute Trust in the Goodness of the Earth: New Poems (2003).