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Monday, April 20, 2009

Alice Walker sews and tells

click to enlarge GLOBAL WARMING: The Color Purple and its accompanying quilt
  • GLOBAL WARMING: The Color Purple and its accompanying quilt

Author and activist Alice Walker has long championed the quilt. For the narrator of her story "Everyday Use," quilts aren't simply objects of beauty and handiwork, but industrious articles meant to be used as well as learned from. Walker's writing has reinforced the symbol of handmade blankets in American history, calling attention to the ways culture and tradition have passed through the hands of women. When Emory University opens the Alice Walker Archive to the public Thurs., April 23, with the exhibit A Keeping of Records: The Art and Life of Alice Walker, the center of attention will likely be a quilt Walker made nearly 30 years ago while writing The Color Purple.

Emory first acquired the archive from Walker in 2007. It's a massive collection of documents and ephemera that encompasses almost all of the author's life. Included are drafts of every manuscript, along with letters, photographs, and a scrapbook she started keeping as a teenager. "It is evidence of Walker's belief and self-awareness that she would become an important American writer," curator Rudolph P. Byrd has said of the collection. A Keeping of Records will showcase 200 of the archive's items.

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(Photo courtesy Emory University Photography)

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