Alice Walker

Alice Walker

: Photo from Creative Commons / Author of Photo: Steve Rhodes


* Pulitzer Prize-winning author
* Longtime admirer of Fidel Castro
* Supporter of cop-killer Mumia Abu Jamal
* Thinks the key to defeating Osama bin Laden is “love”


Alice Walker was born on February 9, 1944, in Eatonton, Georgia, the eighth child of sharecropper parents. After graduating as valedictorian of her high-school class, she attended Spellman College for two years before transferring to Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, from which she graduated in 1965.

Attending the Communist-Sponsored Youth World Peace Festival

In 1962, Walker attended the Communist-sponsored Youth World Peace Festival in Helsinki, Finland. During the Cold War, Communist nations often sought to leverage peace initiatives as a means of advancing their geopolitical agendas and promoting their ideological worldview. The 1962 Youth World Peace Festival was no exception, with Communist organizations and sympathizers playing a prominent role in its organization and execution. The Soviet Union, as the standard-bearer of Communism, played a central role in the ’62 Festival. Soviet youth delegations, carefully curated and ideologically aligned, were prominently featured in the festivities. Moreover, the Soviet government provided substantial financial and organizational support. While ostensibly promoting peace and solidarity, these Soviet contributions served mainly to advance Soviet influence and propaganda on the world stage.

Ties to Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King Jr. publicly recognized and lauded Walker for her participation in the Youth World Peace Festival, inviting the young woman to his home at the end of her freshman year in college.

In August 1963, Walker participated in the famous March on Washington, during which King delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.

Exchange Student in Uganda

In 1964, after her junior year at Sarah Lawrence, Walker spent some time as an exchange student in Uganda.

Pregnancy, Depression, Abortion

During her senior year of college in 1965, Walker got pregnant and became consumed with anxiety and depression to the point where she contemplated suicide. She eventually had an abortion and subsequently wrote about the experience as well as the emotional trauma that accompanied it; this became the basis of her first published collection of poetry, Once (1968).

Civil Rights Worker Meets Her Future Husband

After graduating from college in 1965, Walker went to Georgia to work on voter-registration drives and promote the expansion of welfare rights. It was during this time that she met Melvyn Leventhal, a white civil-rights attorney whom she eventually wed on March 17, 1967. Walker and Leventhal were the first legally married interracial couple to live in the state of Mississippi; they would divorce nine years later.

A Growing Career as a Writer, Teacher, & Editor

In 1966, Walker relocated to New York City where she worked for the welfare department. She was also awarded her first writing grant that same year.

In 1968-1969, Walker became a Writer in Residence at Jackson State University, where she taught courses in Black Studies.

In 1970, with the help of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Walker wrote and published The Third Life of Grange Copeland, the story of a despondent black tenant farmer who leaves his wife and son in Georgia and goes North in search of a better life.

In 1970-71, Walker was a Writer in Residence at Tougaloo College in Mississippi.

While doing research for a short story on voodoo in 1970, Walker discovered the folk stories of Zora Neale Hurston, a leading figure of the Harlem Renaissance movement in the 1920s. Hurston’s work had a profound influence on Walker.

In 1972, Walker moved to Massachusetts where she taught a course on African-American Women’s Studies at Wellesley College, the first class of its kind in the United States. She also taught some classes at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.

In 1973, Walker published her second volume of poetry, Revolutinary Petunias and Other Poems, as well as her first short-story collection, In Love and In Trouble: Stories of Black Women.

In 1974, Walker moved back to New York to work as a contributing editor at Ms. Magazine. Her book Langston Hughes: American Poet was published that year as well.

Walker was awarded a Guggenheim Foundation Grant in 1978, and the following year she moved to San Francisco to begin writing her third novel, The Color Purple, which was eventually published in 1982 and won both a Pulitzer Prize for fiction and a National Book Award. The story was also made into an Oscar-winning 1985 film directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Whoopi Goldberg and Danny Glover.

In 1982, Walker served as a professor at the University of California during the Spring semester, and at Brandeis University in the Fall.

Affinity for Fidel Castro, Contempt for America’s “Greed” & Abuses

A longtime admirer of the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, Walker has called for an end to the U.S. trade embargo against Communist Cuba.

In 1994, Walker was an initiator and endorser of the Peace for Cuba international Appeal, a project of the International Action Center. Other noteworthy initiators included Philip Agee, Thomas Gumbleton, Harry Belafonte, Ruby Dee, Mario Obledo, Rev. Lucius Walker, Martin Sheen, Maxine Waters, Ed Asner, Richard Falk, Woody Harrelson, Howard Zinn, Pete Seeger, Corliss Lamont, Paul Sweezy, Noam ChomskyJohn Conyers, Ossie Davis, and Charles Rangel.

On March 13, 1996, Walker wrote a letter to President Bill Clinton, asking him to try to cultivate a good relationship with Fidel Castro and to terminate the U.S. embargo against Cuba. Some excerpts from her letter:

“I love Cuba and its people, including Fidel. The bill you have signed to further tighten the blockade hurts me deeply. I travel to Cuba whenever I can to take medicine and the small, perhaps insignificant comfort of my presence, to those whose courage and tenderness have inspired me practically my entire life.

“I have seen how the embargo hurts everyone in Cuba, but especially Cuban children, infants in particular. I spend some nights in utter sleeplessness worrying about them. …

“The bill you have signed … is wrong, the embargo is wrong, because it punishes people, some of them unborn, for being who they are. Cubans cannot help being who they are. Given their long struggle for freedom, particularly from Spain and the United States, they cannot help taking understandable pride in who they are. They have chosen a way of life different from ours, and I must say that from my limited exposure to that different way of life, it has brought them, fundamentally, a deep inner certainty about the meaning of existence (to develop one’s self and to help others) and an equally deep psychic peace. …

“I believe you and Fidel must speak to each other. Face to face. He is not the monster he has been portrayed; and in all the study you have done of Cuba surely [it] is apparent to you that he has reason for being the leader he is. …

“In 1962 I also went to Russia. I was determined to impress upon all the Russians I met that I was not their enemy, and that I opposed the idea my government had, at that time, of possibly killing all of them. I have never regretted offering smiles to the children of Russia, instead of agreeing with a paranoid government to throw bombs. …

“The country [America] has lost its way, such as it was. Primarily, because it is now understood by all, that resources and space itself are limited, and the days of infinite expansion and exploitation, sometimes referred to as ‘growth,’ are over. Greed has been a primary motivating factor from the beginning. And so the dream of the revengeful and the greedy is to re-take Cuba, never mind the cries of children who can no longer have milk to drink, or of adults whose ration card permits them one egg a week. …

“I will always love and respect the Cuban people, and help them whenever I can. Their way of caring for all humanity has made them my family. Whenever you hurt them, or help them, please think of me.”

In 2002, Walker was featured in the documentary Fidel: The Untold Story, in which she was quoted as saying: “What’s not to like about the man? If Fidel could dance, he’d be perfect!”

In March 2005, Walker signed a letter stating that the U.S. government had no moral authority to criticize Cuba’s human-rights record in light of the prisoner-abuse controversies involving American military personnel at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. The letter said, in part:

“At the 61st session of the UN human rights commission in Geneva, the US is again trying to pass a resolution against Cuba by placing other member states under duress.

“The US wishes to condemn Cuba to justify the intensification of its blockade of the island and other aggressive measures that violate international law. The commission should represent all members of the United Nations and work for the respect of the rights of all men and women of the world. But at the last commission, in 2004, it was not possible even to debate the atrocious violations of human rights in the US prisons at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

“The government of the US has no moral authority to elect itself as the judge over human rights in Cuba, where there has not been a single case of disappearance, torture or extra-judicial execution since 1959, and where despite the economic blockade, there are levels of health, education and culture that are internationally recognised.”

Additional signers of the aforementioned 2005 letter included such notables as Harold Pinter, Tariq Alí, José Saramago, Rigoberta Menchu, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nadine Gordimer, Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover, Ernesto Cardenal, and Ramsey Clark.

In 2013, Walker wrote: “Cuba has a very high literacy rate, thanks to the Cuban revolution.”

Supporter of Cop-Killers Assata Shakur & Mumia Abu-Jamal

A staunch opponent of the death penalty, Walker supports amnesty for Assata Shakur, a former Black Panther and Black Liberation Army leader who was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in a maximum-security prison for her role in a 1973 shootout that left a state patrolman dead in New Jersey. Shakur escaped from prison in 1979 and lived underground until 1986, when she was granted political asylum in Cuba, where she has lived ever since. Said Walker in 1999: “I take her [Shakur’s] word that she didn’t kill the man. Cuba permitted her to have a life, but she is still unable to be with her family and friends. To put a bounty on her head is evil. Assata Shakur is a great human being. She should be left in peace and happiness. Any attempt to make her suffer is utterly demonic.”

In 2013, Walker wrote the following about Shakur:

“The first time I met Assata Shakur we talked for a long time. We were in Havana, where I had gone with a delegation to offer humanitarian aid during Cuba’s ‘special period’ of hunger and despair, and I’d wanted to hear her side of the story from her. She described the incident with the New Jersey Highway Patrol, and assured me she was shot up so badly that even if she’d wanted to, she would not have been able to fire a gun. Though shot in the back (with her arms raised), she managed to live through two years of solitary confinement, in a men’s prison, chained to her bed. Then, in what must surely have been a miraculous coming together of people of courageous compassion, she was helped to escape and to find refuge in Cuba….

“I believe Assata Shakur to be a good and decent, a kind and compassionate person. True revolutionaries often are. Physically she is beautiful, and her spirit is also. She appears to hold the respect, love and friendship of all the people who surround her.”

On at least two occasions, Walker has visited the convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal in prison. She has described him as follows: “He is just beautiful. He is a beautiful person. He is intelligent. He is compassionate. He has a lot of light. He reminds me of Nelson Mandela.” “I don’t have any doubt that Mumia was framed,” says Walker. “None. In fact, what I think happened is that he was actually trying to help Faulkner [Philadelphia policeman Daniel Faulkner, who was murdered during a 1981 traffic stop of a car driven by Mumia’s brother].”

Walker provided an endorsement for Abu-Jamal’s first book, Live from Death Row, published in 1995.

In 2008, Walker signed a statement circulated by the Partisan Defense Committee calling for Abu-Jamal’s release from prison. The statement described Mumia as a “former Black Panther” who had been “framed” as a murderer and sentenced to death by a racist U.S. justice system, and it denounced capital punishment as “a legacy of chattel slavery and a barbaric outrage … the lynch rope made legal.”

Political Donations

Over the years, Walker has made campaign contributions to leftist political candidates like Barbara Boxer, Medea Benjamin, Ron Dellums, Dennis Kucinich, and Barbara Lee.

Asserting That Hawaii Should Be a Country Rather Than a State

One of Walker’s pet causes has been her campaign to make Hawaii a country rather than a state. “People should know that Hawaii is a country and should be respected as such,” she said in one interview. “Because it was forcibly annexed to the United States does not mean that it is the U.S., except by conquest.”

Condemning Organized Religion’s Harm to “Indigenous People”

In a 1999 interview, Walker stated that organized religion “has systematically undermined and destroyed the sexual and spiritual beliefs of millions of indigenous people. There have been people on earth who didn’t think about sex the way white, Western men do. It is very painful to think that the ‘missionary position,’ which reinforces patriarchal, male dominance over women, was forced upon people who once loved having women freely express their sexuality, whether they were on the top or bottom.”

Advocating “Love” as a Response to Osama bin Laden & 9/11

A few weeks after al Qaeda’s 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States, Walker said: “In a war on Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden will either be left alive, while thousands of impoverished, frightened people are bombed into oblivion around him, or he will be killed in a bombing attack for which he seems quite prepared. But what would happen to his cool armor if he could be reminded of all the good, nonviolent things he has done? Further, what would happen to him if he could be brought to understand the preciousness of the lives he has destroyed? I firmly believe the only punishment that works is love.”

Worldwide Sisterhood Against Terrorism and War

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Walker — along with feminists like Eve EnslerSusan Sarandon, and Gloria Steinemjoined the Worldwide Sisterhood Against Terrorism and War, an organization that circulated a petition protesting the bombing of Afghanistan on grounds that such a measure “would only punish suffering people and increase the hatred on which terrorists feed.”

Anti-War Activist

On March 8, 2003, Walker participated in an anti-war demonstration in front of the White House to protest the possibility of a U.S. invasion of Iraq. In the course of her remarks, she proclaimed that “the best substitute for war is intelligence.” Another featured speaker that day, Democracy Now‘s Amy Goodman, declared that “the best substitute for [President] George Bush is Alice Walker.” Organized by Code Pink, the March 8th event drew some 3,000 to 5,000 participants. Walker and 26 others were arrested for their actions that day.

Guest Speaker at International Socialist Organization Event

In June 2004 Walker was a guest speaker at an International Socialist Organization event, along with such notables as Marian Wright Edelman, Howard ZinnNoam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, and Tom Hayden.

Supporting Barack Obama for President

In an April 2008 article appearing in The Guardian, Walker publicly endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. She wrote:

“I am a supporter of Barack Obama because I believe he is the right person to lead the United States at this time. He offers a rare opportunity for the country and the world to do better…. He is, in fact, a remarkable human being, not perfect but humanly stunning, like King was and like Mandela is. He is the change America has been trying desperately and for centuries to hide, ignore, kill. The change it must have if we are to convince the rest of the world that we care about people other than our (white) selves…. I can easily imagine Obama sitting down and talking to any leader — or any person — in the world, with no baggage of past servitude or race supremacy to mar their talks. I cannot see the same scenario with [Hillary] Clinton, who would drag into 21st-century US leadership the same image of white privilege and distance from others’ lives that has so marred the country’s contacts with the rest of the world…. Even if Obama becomes president, our country is in such ruin it may be beyond his power to lead us to rehabilitation. If he is elected, however, we must, as citizens of the planet, insist on helping him do the best job that can be done; more, we must insist that he demand this of us. And remember, as poet June Jordan and Sweet Honey in the Rock never tired of telling us: We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

“War Is as Objectionable as Cannibalism and Slavery”

In the same April 2008 article in The Guardian, Walker wrote: “I agree with a teacher of mine, Howard Zinn, that war is as objectionable as cannibalism and slavery; it is beyond obsolete as a means of improving life. I want an end to the on-going war immediately and I want the soldiers to be encouraged to destroy their weapons and to drive themselves out of Iraq.”

Denouncing Israel & Jews While Whitewashing Hamas

As a supporter of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, Walker believes that Israel has egregiously mistreated the Palestinian people. “I want the Israeli government to be made accountable for its behavior towards the Palestinians,” she wrote in April 2008, “and I want the people of the United States to cease acting like they don’t understand what is going on. All colonization, all occupation, all repression basically looks the same, whoever is doing it….”

Walker praised the 2010 book, Human Race Get Off Your Knees, wherein author David Icke, a longtime promoter of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, made numerous references to the “Rothschild Zionists” who allegedly had inflicted immense misery on the Palestinian people while controlling vast numbers of corporations, NGOs, and media organizations. According to Walker, the book was “amazing,” “stunning,” “magical,” “profound” and “the ultimate reading adventure.”

In 2010 as well, Walker published a short essay book titled Overcoming Speechlessness: A Poet Encounters the Horror in Rwanda, Eastern Congo, and Palestine/Israel, which was originally intended to be a stand-alone essay on the leftwing Jewish website Tikkun. In the book, Walker accused world leaders of exhibiting “indifference to the value of Palestinian life that has corrupted our children’s sense of right and wrong for generations.” “Most Jews who know their own history see how relentlessly the Israeli government is attempting to turn Palestinians into the ‘new Jews,’ patterned on Jews of the Holocaust era, as if someone must hold that place in order for Jews to avoid it,” she wrote. In addition, Walker lamented that her ex-husband “does not see the racist treatment of Palestinians as the same racist treatment of blacks and some Jews that he fought against so nobly in Mississippi, and that he objected to in his own Brooklyn-based family.”

In 2011, leftist Rabbi Michael Lerner voiced his regret about having allowed Walker to give a speech on Yom Kippur, one he characterized as “lacking in nuance and filled more with attitude than facts or analysis,” due in large part to Walker’s completely unsubstantiated claim that Israeli soldiers had raped Palestinian women. Lerner added: “I personally experienced some of her [Walker’s] remarks as offensive to me and her manner of talking to us dismissive and put-downish, and her perception of the Jewish people seemed largely ignorant of the tradition of Jews that we represent and that has been growing worldwide.”

Also in 2011, Walker, planned to participate in a Free Gaza flotilla scheduled for late June of that year; the initiative was cancelled, however.

In 2012, Walker turned down an offer from Yediot Books to publish a new Israeli edition of The Color Purple. In a letter to the publisher, which she posted on the website “Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel,” she wrote:

“As you may know, last Fall in South Africa the Russell Tribunal on Palestine met and determined that Israel is guilty of apartheid and persecution of the Palestinian people, both inside Israel and also in the Occupied Territories. The testimony we heard, both from Israelis and Palestinians (I was a jurist) was devastating. I grew up under American apartheid and this was far worse. Indeed, many South Africans who attended, including Desmond Tutu, felt the Israeli version of these crimes is worse even than what they suffered under the white supremacist regimes that dominated South Africa for so long. It is my hope that the non-violent BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement, of which I am part, will have enough of an impact on Israeli civilian society to change the situation.”

In May 2013, Walker actively supported a campaign organized by the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a Hamas-inspired initiative aiming to use various forms of public protest, economic pressure, and court rulings to advance the Hamas agenda of permanently destroying Israel as a Jewish nation-state. Specifically, Walker backed BDS’s effort to pressure entertainer Alicia Keys to cancel a scheduled July 4 concert in Tel Aviv. In a personal letter to Keys, Walker advised her to avoid “putting yourself in danger (soul danger) by performing in an apartheid country that is being boycotted by many global conscious artists.” She also condemned the “unconscionable harm Israel inflicts every day on the people of Palestine, whose major ‘crime’ is that they exist in their own land, land that Israel wants to control as its own.” And she described the Israeli “system” as “cruel, unjust, and unbelievably evil.”

At a New York University conference on April 24, 2014, a Daily Caller reporter had the following exchange with Walker regarding Islamic terrorism generally, and Hamas in particular:

Reporter: Do you think Hamas is a terrorist organization?
Walker: I don’t know.
Reporter: Well, when they blow up Jews on Israeli buses, is that terrorism?
Walker: I don’t know. I was not there. You’re all dressed up. Why are you wearing a tie?
Reporter: Because this is a formal occasion. Do you think 9/11 was an act of terrorism?
Walker: Yes. But I don’t know who did it. Do you?
Reporter: Yeah, the 9/11 hijackers. Do you think the [U.S.] government did it?
Walker: I don’t know.
Reporter: Back to Hamas. Do you think they are a terrorist organization?

At that point, the usually outspoken Walker quietly walked away.

Smearing Israel in Her Book, The Cushion in the Road (2013)

In April 2013, Walker published The Cushion in the Road, a book replete with anti-Jewish rhetoric — most notably in an 80-page section titled “On Palestine,” composed of 12 essays that, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), were “rife with comparisons of Israelis to Nazis, denigrations of Judaism and Jews, and statements suggesting that Israel should cease to exist as a Jewish state.” “Walker’s book also attempts to justify terrorism against Israeli civilians,” said ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman, “claiming that the ‘oppressed’ Palestinians should not be blamed for carrying out suicide bombings.” Characterizing Walker as “someone who is unabashedly infected with anti-Semitism,” Foxman said of the author: “She has taken her extreme and hostile views to a shocking new level, revealing the depth of her hatred of Jews and Israel to a degree that we have not witnessed before. Her descriptions of the conflict are so grossly inaccurate and biased that it seems Walker wants the uninformed reader to come away sharing her hate-filled conclusions that Israel is committing the greatest atrocity in the history of the world.”

Railing against black churches whose leaders cited Biblical passages in which Jews emerged triumphant, Walker wrote: “It amazes me, in these churches, that there is no discussion of the fact that the other behavior we learned about in the Bible stories: The rapes, the murders, the pillaging, the enslavement of the conquered, the confiscation of land, the brutal domination and colonization of all ‘others’ is still front and center in Israel’s behavior today. It is because I recognize the brutality with which my own multi-branched ancestors have been treated that I can identify the despicable, lawless, cruel, and sadistic behavior that has characterized Israel’s attempts to erase a people, the Palestinians, from their own land.”

In a discussion about Israel’s alleged theft of Palestinian land, Walker wrote: “Can people who hunger so desperately for what other people have, ever have enough? One thinks of Hitler, of course, and Napoleon….”

Walker in her book contended that Israel’s moral values were based on little more than a feeling of “supremacy,” further noting that Israeli settlements were rooted in the idea that “possession is nine-tenths of the law,” a lesson she claimed to have “learned from my Jewish lawyer former husband,” civil-rights attorney Mel Leventhal. “This belief might even be enshrined in the Torah,” she added.

In one essay in The Cushion in the Road, Walker recounted a meeting that she had once had with an elderly Palestinian woman who accepted a gift from the author and told Walker, “May God protect you from the Jews” — to which Walker replied: “It’s too late, I already married one.” Several paragraphs later, Walker wrote that her ex-husband, his family, and Jews in general “were people who knew how to hate, and how to severely punish others.”

Regarding an encounter she had experienced with a young Israeli soldier who was manning a checkpoint designed to monitor people seeking to travel from the West Bank to Israel, Walker was equally contemptuous. “I couldn’t bring myself to use the ‘N’ word,” she wrote, “but I did say, ‘Don’t you think this behavior — insulting, threatening, humiliating — makes you all seem rather Germanesque? I meant the old Germanesque of the late thirties and early forties, not the current Germanesque.” Moreover, Walker’s descriptions of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians were liberally  peppered with such terms as “genocide,” “ethnic cleansing,” “crimes against humanity,” and “cruelty and diabolical torture.”

Because she viewed Israeli soldiers as being comparable to Nazis, Walker was able to rationalize Palestinian terrorism perpetrated against innocent Israeli civilians. She saw it as “dishonest … that people claim not to understand the desperate, last ditch resistance involved in suicide bombings; blaming the oppressed for using their bodies where the Israeli army uses armored tanks.”

Abortion-Rights Extremist

On May 2, 2022, Politico reported that an unidentified individual had leaked an initial draft of a 5-4 majority opinion, written by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, in which the Court had decided to strike down the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. “No draft decision in the modern history of the court has been disclosed publicly while a case was still pending,” said Politico. Whereas Roe had guaranteed federal constitutional protections for abortion rights, the new ruling would return responsibility for those rights to each individual state. “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Alito wrote in his opinion, adding: “We hold that Roe and Casey [a 1992 decision that largely reaffirmed the rights set forth in Roe] must be overruled. It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.” In the wake of the leaking of that Court decision’s draft, the Revolutionary Communist Party front group, Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights, issued a statement demanding the right to “abortion on demand and without apology.” Walker was a signatory to that statement.

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