Living By Grace Home
Biography Menu
Early Years
College Years
1. Leaving Home
2. The Spelman College Years
3. The Sarah Lawerence Years
4. The Abortion
Becoming a Writer
Resurrecting Zora
Color Purple
Later Works


College Years
Alice Walker

Time Line

Click on a date in the time line to scroll down and read a section below, or click on a link in the biography menu to read a selection of your choice.

  • 1961:  Alice Walker is awarded a scholarship to attend the historical African-American woman's institution, Spelman College.
  • 1961-63:  During her time at Spelman, Alice participates in civil right's movement as an activist.
  • 1963:  She leaves Spelman College which she finds too puritanical to attend Sarah Lawrence, a liberal arts college in New York City.
  • 1964:  After her junior year at Sarah Lawrence, Alice travels abroad during the summer to become an exchange student in Uganda.
  • 1965:  In the winter, during her last few months of school, Alice learns that she is pregnant. For three days Alice sleeps with a razor blade underneath her pillow and contemplates suicide. A friend of hers locates a doctor to help Alice get an abortion.
  • 1965:  After the abortion, Alice suffers from anxiety and depression. She writes poems based on her experiences which she submits to her writing teacher and mentor Muriel Rukeyser. Her professor submits them to her agent for review. These poems will become the basis of Alice's first book of poetry, Once, which will not be published until three years later.


The Sarah Lawrence Years

The officials at Spelman were not supportive of her activism. Their aim was to produce ladies, not activists. So in 1963, unhappy with college life at Spelman, Alice uneasily accepted a scholarship she had been awarded to attend the liberal arts institution, Sarah Lawrence College, in Bronxville, New York. In 1964, after her junior year at Sarah Lawrence, she traveled to the continent of Africa, where Alice spent a summer as an exchange student in the country of Uganda.

Back to the Top

The Abortion

During her senior year at Sarah Lawrence, Alice discovered that she was pregnant. After finding out, Alice grew literally sick from worry. She worried about the disappointment that she will cause her mother, father and entire community who have supported her in her pursuit for a college degree. She attempted to find a doctor to perform an aborition for her, but can not find one. Distraught, for three days, Alice could not sleep or eat. She slept with a razor underneath her pillow and contemplates suicide.

Alice had always contemplated suicide since entering college and read the treaties about suicide by philosophers Nietzsche and Albert Camus when she had first entered college. But the option took on a more desirable option once she discovered she was pregnant. She believed her parents would miss her some if she committed suicide. But she felt as if they would not miss her much after they discovered the reason she killed herself was because she was pregnant.

She revealed her secret to three friends who consoled her, but whom she felt really didn't understand her predicament. One of her friends finally succeeded in finding a doctor to perform an abortion for Alice. Alice was anxious during the entire procedure because her mother had always considered abortion a sin.

After the abortion, Alice slipped into a deep depression. Just like the time following her accident when she lost her right eye, her only comfort is her writing. Alice wrote poetry as a means of dealing with her feelings of pain and anxiety. She slipped her finished poetry on sheets of paper underneath the door of her writing professor and mentor, Muriel Rekeyser. Her professor, impressed with Alice's poems, submitted them to her agent at Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. As a result, they become the basis of her first published work of poetry, Once which was published three years later when she turned 24-years-old.

Alice graduated from Sarah Lawrence in the winter of 1964.

Back to the Top Next Page

Living By Grace


Valid XHTML 1.0!

Copyright April 1999 - Present.
Created by Chris Danielle. All Rights Reserved.
For Permission to Use: E-mail