Alice Walker: “I know what the earth says”

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Alice Walker: “I know what the earth says”

by William R. Ferris
Southern Cultures, Vol. 10, No. 1: Spring 2004

"I love B. B. because he loves women. They can be mean, they can be bitchy, they can be carrying on, but you can tell he really loves them. He's full of love. I would like to be the literary B.B. King."

My friendship with Alice Walker began in the fall of 1970 when I taught in the English department of Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi. At that time Alice lived in Jackson and had just finished her manuscript of The Third Life of Grange Copeland. She shared with me encouraging comments that Ernest Gaines had written about the manuscript. During that time Alice also published her impressive volume of poetry Revolutionary Petunias and did an important interview with Eudora Welty that was published in the Harvard Advocate.

When I taught at Yale in the mid-seventies, Alice visited the campus and gave a moving seminar with faculty and students. Our lives crossed again when I served as a consultant on her film The Color Purple. When I worked at the University of Mississippi’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture, Alice wrote me that she was coming for a visit. We arranged a reading and book party for her at Square Books in Oxford and a tour of the Blues Archive at the University of Mississippi during that visit in the mid-1990s. We also met in my home, where I recorded these reflections about Alice’s work as a writer and her love for the blues.