|Florence ( 1950)|
|Wine in the Wilderness ( 1969)|
Alice Childress was born on October 12, 1920, in Charleston, South Carolina. At the age of five, Childress boarded a train for New York where she grew up in Harlem under the care of her grandmother, Eliza Campbell. Childress admits that she owes a great debt to her grandmother who empowered her to survive even the harshest conditions. Childress says of her grandmother, "She had seven children and was very poor. There wasn't any time to do anything, except try to keep the children in clothing and someway fed. Always running out of everything. When I came along, all of her children were grown. We were together all of the time. Her name was Eliza . . . I put so much emphasis on my grandmother, Eliza, because my father and mother were separated when I was very little. I vaguely remember him. My mother was always working and on the go. My grandmother was a very fortunate thing that happened to me."
Childress's grandmother inspired her to write, as is evident in her comments, "We used to walk up and down New York City, going to art galleries and private art showings. She used to say to the people in charge, 'Now, this is my granddaughter and we don't have any money, but I want her to know about art'. . . I was storing up things to write about even then . . . My grandmother was a member of Salem Church in Harlem. We went to Wednesday night testimonials. Now that's where I learned to be a writer. I remember how people, mostly women, used to get up and tell their troubles to everybody . . . Everybody rallied round these people. I couldn't wait for person after person to tell her story." Childress recalls that when she and her grandmother returned from their excursions, her grandmother always quizzed her and encouraged her to write about people for whom the act of living is sheer heroism.
Armed with a positive sense of self instilled in her by her grandmother, Childress was able to endure many hardships as she struggled to get an