Walker, an African American Pultizer Prize winning author of the novel The Color Purple, had been scheduled to deliver the keynote speech at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Center for the Education of Women at the University of Michigan.
The University of Michigan, founded in 1817, is one of Michigan state’s oldest universities and a member of the United States’ “Ivy League” universities. It’s also made the top five research universities in the US, and top 20 in the world.
Walker, a Middle East peace activist, women’s rights activist and free speech proponent, called the withdrawal “censorship by purse string”. That’s because, it appears, major donors threatened to withdraw funding to the centre if Walker remained as keynote speaker for the milestone event.
“Such behavior, as evidenced by the donors, teaches us our weakness, which should eventually (and soon) show us our strength: women must be in control of our own finances,” Walker said. “Not just in the family, but in the schools, work force, and everywhere else. Until we control this part of our lives, our very choices, in any and every area, can be denied us. I’m saddened to write this because I’m a proponent of free speech and have been brought up to allow everyone to have their say. But I also realize that there are other considerations that institutions are faced with.”
Walker is outspoken in her support of Palestinian rights. She also likened Israel’s policies towards Palestinians to the racist Jim Crow system prevalent in the southern United States between the 1870s and the 1960s.
On the 30th anniversary of the publication of “The Color Purple” late last year, Walker sat down with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, and discussed the novel’s enduring legacy, racism, violence against women, Obama’s presidency and global issues.
When Goodman probed her Middle East peace activism, Walker said “the way the Palestinians are treated is so reminiscent of the way black people were treated in the South when I was growing up. And it’s an intolerable situation. And that our country backs this treatment by standing with Israel through thick and thin is just unbearable.”