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Alice Walker in Blue Picture

Page Two: The College Years

Alice Walker Biography Links:
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Alice Walker Mug Shot

Leaving Home

In 1961, at the age of 17, Alice prepared to leave home to attend Spelman College, a historically Black institution dedicated to educating future African-American women. Ironically, the very same accident in her childhood which maimed her for life would be the very one that paid for her education. Alice was awarded a rehabilitation scholarship for handicapped students from the state of Georgia in order to help her pay for school.

Alice left home with only three things in her possession that her mother gave her. She was given a sewing machine which to her meant for her to be self-sufficent and independent. Her second gift was an exquisite suitcase, which in her mind, gave her permission to travel the world. The third gift was a typewriter which communicated to her the need to write down her mother's and her own stories.

Her community raised the $75 bus fare for Alice to make the trip to Atlanta. On the trip up, the beginnings of her rebelliousness and activism began to show. Up until the 1960s, Blacks were made by mandate of the law to sit in the back of the bus. Inspired by the protest movement and speeches by the Rev. Martin Luther King she had seen over the summer, Alice deliberately decided to take a seat in the front of the bus. A white woman complained to the bus driver and Alice was forced to take a seat in the back. It would only be the start of her activist activities when Alice enrolled her first semester in Atlanta, GA, where she said she stayed uneasily at for two years.

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The Spelman College Years

During much of her time at Spelman College, Alice was an active participant in the fight for Civil Rights in the state of Georgia. Alice stood on the lawn of Trevor-Arnett Library, where she listened to the speeches of young civil rights leaders such as John Lewis and Julian Bond speak out against the practices of segregation. Alice also marched in a variety of demonstrations. The summer after her freshman year at Spelman, Alice traveled abroad to Helsinki, Finland for the World Youth Peace Festival. The trip was funded by African-American churches. Before Alice left she was allowed to meet Coretta Scott King, the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King. She also participated in the March on Washington in front of the Lincoln Memorial where the famous "I Have a Dream Speech" was given.

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Alice Walker in Green Picture

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.

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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.
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