Alice Walker- 2001
Novelist, short story writer, poet, social activist and Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner
An Inspiration to African American Women
By Madelyn Shaffer (Mathematics, Class of 2024)
Alice Walker is a social activist and author who encouraged African American women to know their worth and pursue their artistic passions. She knows firsthand the struggles that women face and how important it is to have a creative outlet. In her piece, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens, Walker talks about seeing her mother use gardening as her creative release. She also recognizes that African American women typically were not seen as artists. Women were usually only supposed to do their job and care for their family, and anyone who went against this norm was looked down upon. She says that “to be an artist and a black woman, even today, lowers our status in many respects, rather than raises it: and yet, artists we will be.” Walker’s mother, who worked hard every day, always found time for her garden because it was something that she needed to do for herself. Walker describes her mother as “radiant” after working in her garden because she was doing her soul’s work. By finding a way to express herself, she was clearly a lot happier in life. She uses her mother as an example of why black women should find and pursue a passion.
Throughout her piece, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens, Walker references African American women in the past, who, in hindsight, did not realize how special they were. These women had been told by society that they were not supposed to express themselves through any forms of art, however, many of these women went on to become household names for what they did. She asks the reader to imagine what life would be like without Virginia Woolf, Aretha Franklin, and Nina Simone’s contributions to society. The world would be missing out by stifling women which is why she encourages them to be creative. Johnson states that “[Walker] urges [women] to search for, learn about, and know their inner selves… .” She knows how crucial it is for women to find themselves in their art. Through her writing, Walker has inspired African American women to change the way they think about themselves, while the historical women she talked about changed society.
Alice Walker is significant to African American women because of her strong beliefs that she spread through her writing. Her ideas can especially be seen in her piece, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens where she explains how necessary a creative outlet was to her mother and other impactful women. She wants everyone to learn from America’s history so that we can improve society for the future generations of women. She won the National Book award for her novel “The Color Purple” in 1983 and was the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer prize for literature in history. Alice Walker’s work will continue to inspire African American women for years to come.
Walker, Alice. In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984. Print.
Johnson, Yvonne. “Alice Walker.” Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, 2018. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ers&AN=90669574&authtype=sso&custid=s3915890&site=eds-live&scope=site.
Warren, Nagueyalti. Alice Walker. Salem Press, 2013. EBSCOhost,search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=500799&authtype=sso&custid=s3915890&site=eds-live&scope=site.