EATONTON, Ga. — The purple carpet is being rolled out in Eatonton Saturday to celebrate the 75th birthday of Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Putnam County native Alice Walker.
This is her first journey back home since the 1986 premiere of the movie “The Color Purple,” which is based on her prize-winning novel.
The day-long affair is hosted by the Georgia Writers Museum (GWM), a nonprofit organization and exhibit space located in Eatonton at 109 S. Jefferson Ave., that promotes Georgia’s rich literary heritage including local authors. Planned events will be held at the Plaza Arts Center in Eatonton and will include a screening and discussion of the American Masters documentary “Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth,” live readings and musical performances by esteemed writers and artists, tours of historic sites relevant to Walker, and a luncheon and evening cocktail reception with a champagne toast and birthday cake-cutting.
Those scheduled to present at the event include Valerie Boyd, editor of Walker’s forthcoming journals, award-winning playwright and novelist Pearl Cleage, New York Times bestselling author Tayari Jones, gospel violinist Melanie R. Hill, novelist and scholar Daniel Black, poet Kamilah Aisha Moon, Walker’s biographer Evelyn C. White, filmmaker Pratibha Parmar and Walker’s daughter, writer and activist Rebecca Walker.
“Alice is excited and looking forward to celebrating her birthday at home,” said Larry Moore, who is helping to organize the celebration.
Moore noted that Walker’s actual birthday is Feb. 9, but the celebration was delayed until her grandson was out of school so he and Walker’s daughter can attend the festivities with her.
The event is sold out with 500 tickets purchased and a waiting list of more than 120 individuals wanting to attend the much-anticipated celebration. Event officials said they hope to expose first-time visitors to Georgia’s Lake Country and the depth of the region’s cultural and literary offerings. The event committee also hopes to generate an economic impact and have utilized local vendors when possible for catering and accommodations.
Born and raised in Eatonton, Walker is an internationally recognized novelist, short story writer, poet, essayist and activist. Her books include seven novels, four collections of short stories, five children’s books, and volumes of essays and poetry. She is most well-known for her novel, “The Color Purple,” which garnered the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for Fiction in 1983. The book was adapted to the screen by famed director Steven Spielberg with an all-star cast that included Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover and Opera Winfrey. The film premiered at Eatonton’s Pex Theatre — a location included on the day’s tour of historical sites.
Walker’s work has been translated into more than two dozen languages, and her books have sold more than 15 million copies. In 2001, Walker was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame, and five years later, she was an inaugural inductee into the California Hall of Fame. Emory University acquired Walker’s personal and literary archives in 2007 and began cataloging her papers in 2008. The Alice Walker Papers are available to the public at Emory in Atlanta.
“Alice has been extremely involved in the planning of the day including a selection of the speakers, choosing the menu, and insisting on ending the day’s celebration with dancing,” said event co-chair Lou Benjamin. “She even sent us her desired song playlist for the evening.”
For more information on Georgia’s Writers Museum including upcoming events, visit www.georgiawritersmuseum.com. To see all scheduled events and to be placed on the waiting list to attend the Alice Walker 75th Birthday Celebration, visit www.alicewalker75.com.