'American Masters' Alice Walker: Beyond 'The Color Purple' to 'Beauty in Truth'

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Alice Walker knew that she had to do well to make her mother proud.

Imagine how proud she would have been when her daughter became the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, for "The Color Purple."

Filmmaker Pratibha Parmar draws from multiple interviews with Walker, historic documents, news footage and clips to create "Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth," airing on PBS' "American Masters" Friday, Feb. 7 (check local listings).

Parmar met the activist and author of more than 30 books in 1991 and began interviewing her eight years later.

"I did an interview outside the shack in which her mother grew up out in the country," Parmar tells Zap2it.

Walker's voice-over explains how her mother made even this ramshackle shack a home. She bought scraps of wallpaper for the kids' room, but when she could get no more, she ironed brown paper bags to line the walls in other rooms.

"My great-great-great-great-grandmother walked, as a slave, from Virginia to Eatonton, Ga., which passes for the Walker ancestral home, with two babies on her hip," Walker says. "She lived to be 125 years old. My own father knew her as a boy."

Walker comes through as someone on an eternal quest. The result is a portrait in honesty.

Always smart, she was awarded a scholarship to Spelman at the height of the civil rights movement, and when the school dissuaded involvement in the protests, she transferred to Sarah Lawrence.

The film discusses Walker's former husband and lovers, including Tracy Chapman.

"I am not a lesbian," Walker says. "I am not bisexual. I am curious. If you are really alive, how can you be in one place that whole time?"

Parmar says she hopes viewers come away with the understanding that Walker "is a literary icon, just the terms of the way she has lived her life, with so much courage and an abiding, unshakable commitment to truth and to justice."
Photo/Video credit: PBS
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