PBS aired a new documentary Friday night that celebrated Alice Walker’s greatest achievements and battles with controversy in honor of the author and activist’s birthday and Black History Month.
As Walker turned 70, PBS gave the nation the chance to look back on the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer’s accomplishments and the national discussions she fueled through works like The Color Purple.
The documentary, which is a part of PBS’s American Masters series, shares Walker’s inspiring journey from poverty in Eatonton, Ga., to her ability to use the arts to combat violence, racism and many other controversial topics.
The film’s director, Pratibha Parmar, said that it would be foolish not to feature Walker in the American Masters series.
“It seemed crazy not to have a film on Alice, given the impact she’s had with her life and her writing,” Parmar said.
Parmar has teamed up with Walker in the past on her film and book “Warrior Marks,” which shed light on the issue of female genital mutilation in Africa.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Walker said that she was more than happy to have her works transition into the digital realm of ebooks so that the younger generation would still have modern-day access to traditional values.
“…I do feel it’s helpful if you’re thinking about the coming generations to leave your work in a form that people can relate to,” she said.
In addition to winning awards, participating in the Civil Rights movement, and becoming one of the most iconic authors and poets across the globe, Walker also saw her share of controversy and backlash.
While The Color Purple is still one of her most praised works, some viewers criticized Walker for the way African-American men were portrayed.
The resulting protests and ongoing criticism encouraged Walker to write a book to address the idea that she did African-American men an injustice.
“It feels like ignorance and ignorance is our greatest adversary,” she said of the harsh feedback. “I think The Color Purple is so bursting with love, the need for connection, the showing of the need for connection about the globe.”
One topic that almost didn’t make it into the documentary was Walker’s relationship with her daughter Rebecca.
In 2008, Rebecca Walker claimed that her mother put her “very low down in her priorities” and the pair haven’t communicated much since. Walker was initially reluctant to discuss her family matters, but later decided it would be a great way to “clarify” her relationship with her daughter.
The film also features new interviews with Steven Spielberg, Danny Glover, Quincy Jones, Sapphire and Gloria Steinem.
One of the last interviews from the late Howard Zinn is also featured in the documentary.