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After graduation, Alice spent the summer in Liberty County, Georgia where
she helped to initiate the welfare rights movement. She went door to door to registering voters
in the African-American community. Her work with the most needy citizens in the state helped her
to see the impact of poverty on the relationships between Black men and women. Whenever she found
some free time, Alice sat down and continued to write.
She moved to New York City where she worked for the welfare department. She
was awarded her first writing grant in 1966. She had wanted to go to Africa to write, but decided
against it and went down to Mississippi.
There she met a civil rights attorney, Melvyn Leventhal who was supportive of
her writing and her love for nature.
Approximately year later, Alice was awarded a prize for an essay she wrote,
"The Civil Rights Movement: Was It Good?" from The American
Scholar which earned her a prize award of $300. She applied for a fellowship from the
MacDowell Colony, which she accepted. She gave it up to wed Melvyn. They married on March 17,
1967 in New York.
Alice and her husband left New York City to return to live in the state of
Mississippi. They became the first legally married interracial couple of the state. While her
husband fought school desegration in the courts, Alice worked as a history consultant for the
Friends of the Children Mississippi Head Start Program.
The conditions they lived in were extremely dangerous. Since there was still
a great deal of racial prejudice in the state against African-Americans and because her husband
was working adamantly in the courts to dismantle the laws barring desegregation, animosity
against the couple ran high. While the couple lived in Mississippi, she and her husband would
have to sleep with a gun under their beds late at night just for protection.
In Mississippi, Alice also had a job where she helped out once with voter
registration. In 1968, her first book of poetry, Once, that she had begun in
college was finally published. Alice also made her official debut into the literary world when
she published her first short story, "To Hell with Dying." The story, which was
written during college was a based as a contradictory reaction to all of the negative feelings
she had as a result of undergoing an abortion.
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The late sixties were a time of turmoil. Many great leaders were being
killed. America was also getting involved with the Vietnam Conflict around this time. Alice
became pregnant during late 1967. Alice was working on her first novel, The Third Life
of Grange Copeland, which she had started while on fellowship at the MacDowell
Colony. Dr. Martin Luther King is assasinated. The upset of many of the great civil rights
leaders in the country only added more stress. Alice lost the baby as a result. Once again she
became pregnant. During this time she continued to pursue the writing of her novel. She completed
the actual writing of the novel approximately three days before her daughter, Rebecca's birth in
1969. The novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland was published in
The novel centered around the effects of economic, political and social
powerlessness upon the lives of Grange and Brownfield Copeland. Alice received criticism for her
depiction of the African-American male characters in the book. The critics viewed the negative
characterizations of the men as being exaggerated.
But Alice defended herself against her critics by saying that these are men
that she has known. Since she has witnessed their behavior first-hand, Alice said that she would
continue to write about them despite what her critics thought about her not portraying the
"correct image" of African-American people in her work.
Alice became a writer in residence at Jackson State
College from 1968-9. She moves to Tougaloo, Mississippi where she was hired as a writer in
residence at Tougaloo College from 1970-71. Alice left the south in 1971 to accept a Radcliffe