Alice Walker was born on February 9, 1944, in the small rural town of Eatonton, Georgia. She was the eighth and last child of Willie Lee Walker and Minnie Tallulah Grant, two sharecroppers. Walker’s parents’ experiences with the oppressive sharecropping system and the racism of the American South deeply influenced Walker’s writing and life’s work. When Walker was eight, one of her brothers accidentally shot her, permanently blinding her in one eye. Ashamed of her facial disfigurement, Walker isolated herself from other children, reading and writing to pass the time.
In 1961, on a scholarship for disabled students, Walker enrolled in Spelman College in Atlanta, where she became active in the A-frican-American civil rights movement. Two years later, Walker transferred to Sarah Lawrence College in New York and eventually traveled to Uganda as an exchange student. When she returned for her senior year, Walker was shocked to learn that she was pregnant, and, afraid of her parents’ reaction, she considered suicide. However, a classmate helped Walker obtain a safe abortion, and she graduated from Sarah Lawrence in 1965. At this time, Walker composed two early landmark pieces: “To Hell with Dying,” her first published short story, and Once: Poems, her first volume of poetry.