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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 These poems will become the basis of Alice's first book of poetry, Once, which will not be published until three years later.


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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