“People are known by the records they keep. If it isn’t in the records, it will be said it didn’t happen. That is what history is: a keeping of records.” – Alice Walker
In 2007, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Alice Walker chose Atlanta’s Emory University to house her papers, photographs and other items. It is all part of the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library’s (MARBL) African American Collection. To highlight Walker’s gift, the Robert W. Woodruff Library at Emory displayed an exhibit called “A Keeping of Records: The Art and Life of Alice Walker,” which ended September 27. The exhibit highlights Walker as a poet, short story writer, novelist, activist, essayist, children’s book writer, and lover of African American art and literature (especially by Zora Neale Hurston). Such items are exhibited as enlarged pages from a draft of The Color Purple, playbills from the Tony Award-winning musical, props and a directors clapboard from the film production, photographs of Walker at all ages, letters from Quincy Jones, Steven Spielberg and Langston Hughes, and pages from her Spelman College scrapbook.
I was happy to have done the Alice Walker Driving Tour in Eatonton, Georgia, prior to visiting the exhibit because it answered a couple of my questions. For instance, Walker’s mother, Minnie Lou Grant Walker was photographed standing in front of their simple church, Wards Chapel A.M.E. Church, and the church was whitewashed and in great condition, so unlike its current state. Also, there were two pictures of Walker’s childhood home, which I can say must no longer exist on the property¸ where it seems picnic grounds of some sort are now.
It is truly a wonderful gift that Walker chose to house her archives at Emory University. Though the exhibit is now closed, Walker’s materials are open to the public and are housed on the 10th floor of Emory’s Woodruff Library, “a place,” Walker said, “where my archive can rest with joy in the company it keeps.”
Here are a few more links of interest to admirers of Walker’s work: