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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   



16. The Search For Identity

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
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Activities: Author Activities


Alice Walker - Selected Archive Items

Back Back to Alice Walker Activities

[3090] Harriet Powers, Pictorial Quilt (c. 1895-98),
courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Copyright 2002 MFA, Boston. Harriet Powers (American, 1837-1911). United States (Athens, Georgia), 1895-98, pieced, appliqued, and printed cotton embroidered with cotton and metallic yarns, 175 x 266.7 cm (68 7/8 x 105 in.), Museum of Fine Arts Boston, bequest of Maxim Karolik, 64.619.
Many slave and freed women used quilts to record their histories. Some quilts communicated messages: for example, quilts using the color black indicated a safe house on the Underground Railroad. Like slave narrative authors, African American quilters often used biblical themes and references in their work.

[4819] Alan Lomax, Zora Neale Hurston, Rochelle French, and Gabriel Brown, Eatonville, Florida (1935),
courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-USZ61-1777 DLC]. Used with the permission of the Estate of Zora Neale Hurston.
Hurston is pictured here interviewing residents of her hometown, the all-black community of Eatonville. While studying at Barnard, Hurston worked with renowned anthropologist Franz Boas and, in 1927, under Boas's direction, traveled to Louisiana and southern Florida to study and collect African American folktales. The Eatonville Anthology, an anthropologically based narrative, sketches vivid images of Hurston's hometown and reveals her skill as an anthropologist.

[6187] Anonymous, Congress to Unite Women, May 1, 2, 3, '70: Intermediate School, 333 W. 17 St., N.Y.C. (1970),
courtesy of the Library of Congress.
From the same year that Toni Morrison and Alice Walker published their first novels, this poster calls women to one of the many conferences organized to formulate plans of action against the web of racial, heterosexual, and patriarchal oppression. In her article "Playing in the Dark," Morrison writes: "My work requires me to think about how free I can be as an African-American woman writer in my genderized, sexualized, and wholly radicalized world. [F]or me, imagining is not merely looking or looking at; nor is it taking oneself intact into the other. It is, for the purpose of the work, becoming."

[6949] Harriet Powers, Bible Quilt (c. 1886),
courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History.
Harriet Powers, a black woman from Athens, Georgia, made quilts like this one before and after her emancipation. Her biblical scenes reflect how both slaves and freed people turned to Christianity to interpret their hard circumstances and find hope.

[7030] Anonymous, These Two Houses Were Among the Structures in Washington, D.C. . . . (1958),
courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-USZ62-124134].
These two Washington, D.C., houses were classed as "good enough" for occupancy by African Americans until they were demolished so that a housing project could be built in their place. In the foreground a young girl stands near an old wooden well.

[8958] Alice Walker, Interview: "Rhythms in Poetry" (2003),
courtesy of American Passages and Annenberg Media.
Author Alice Walker discusses Langston Hughes's writing.



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