Staff of Friends General Conference have conceived God is Within Her: Quakers Experience The Color Purple as a resource for Friends to explore their own spirituality via an important piece of literature, in community with their local meetings, newcomers, seekers, and the wider Quaker community, whether affiliated with Friends General Conference or other Quaker bodies.
The Color Purple is an American novel of permanent importance.Peter S. Prescott, Newsweek
The Color Purple is a novel by Alice Walker first published in 1982. It is the story of Celie, a Black teenaged girl in the deep South in the early 1900s. She is the target of childhood sexual and physical abuse and is eventually separated from her sister Nettie by an abusive husband, known as Mr. _____. This book is known as an epistolary novel, which means it is told in a series of letters between Celie and God, as well as other characters in the story.
After winning the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction in 1983, The Color Purple was adapted into a film directed by Steven Spielberg and distributed by Warner Brothers in 1985. The book was again adapted, this time into a Broadway musical, debuting in 2005. A 2016 revival of The Color Purple musical won two Tony Awards.
In 2023, over 40 years after the debut of the original novel, a film version of the musical will premier. Starring Fantasia Barrino and Taraji Henson, community organizations are already organizing private screenings, receiving a cultural treatment much like Black Panther and Hidden Figures.
About Our Theme
God is Within Her refers to the following scripture from the Bible:
God is within her, she will not fall;Psalm 46:5
God will help her at break of day
In seeking an appropriate theme for this activity, FGC staff wanted to find sacred text which speaks to our condition as a community as well as the condition of the characters of The Color Purple. Indeed, Alice Walker has identified The Color Purple as a novel that is very much about the discovery of God. In the musical version, Shug Avery sings
God is inside you and everyone else
That was or ever will be.
We come into this world with god.
But only them who look inside find it.
This song echoes George Fox’s idea that we are to answer “that of God in everyone,” an idea that has become a foundational value of the Quaker faith. By choosing “God is within her” as our theme, we are reminded of Celie’s lifelong journey to understanding the nature of God, despite her personal and societal adversities.
Although in greater context, one understands that Psalm 46 refers not to an individual woman but to the City of God broadly, many have adapted the scripture to be one of empowerment for women, or the sisterhood of all women. However, Friends are welcome to consider what the City of God means to them as Quakers.
Finally, the second part of the theme is Quakers Experience The Color Purple. We are interested not just in reading a book, but connecting the book to our lives as Friends in community with one another and the world. This exercise involves reading, connecting, communicating, and fellowship in ways that make sense for the individual and local community.
Before engaging in any part of God is Within Her: Quakers Experience The Color Purple, we encourage Friends to avail themselves of FGC’s Ministry on Racism resources and activities. No space can be 100% free from racialized harm, but Friends can equip themselves with practical and spiritual tools to navigate, mitigate, and address such harm.
Resources for Friends Racialized as People of Color
Resources for Friends Racialized as White
Resources for All
- The White Privilege Conference
- Becoming an Anti-Racist Quaker Meeting
- Racial Wounding and Racial Justice in Quaker Communities
- Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship: Quakers, African Americans, and the Myth of Racial Justice
- Black Fire: African American Quakers on Spirituality and Human Rights
Perhaps most importantly, we’d like for white Friends to understand that Black Friends and other Friends of Color who are participating in God is Within Her: Quakers Experience The Color Purple are doing so in community with you. They have not signed up to be your anti-racist mentors or coaches and should not be treated as such unless that is a role they have explicitly signed up for.
Obtain a Copy of The Color Purple.
Reading The Color Purple was the first time I had seen Southern, Black women’s literature as world literature. In writing us into the world—bravely, unapologetically, and honestly—Alice Walker has given us a gift we will never be able to repay.Tayari Jones
The Color Purple is available in paperback through QuakerBooks of FGC, and you are encouraged to purchase your copy that way, while supplies last.
You may also purchase a paperback copy of The Color Purple through the QuakerBooks portal at BookShop.org. A small portion of those sales will go to FGC and will benefit independent, local booksellers.
Although The Color Purple is frequently challenged or banned, it is widely available wherever you normally purchase, download, or borrow books.
Start a discussion group or book club in your local meeting.
The Color Purple is unique because it got recognized by the literary establishment, but also got critiques and celebration from Black people. I think Beyonce’s visual album Lemonade is similar to a certain degree.Salamishah Tillet
It is simple to start a discussion group or book club for this book or any others. Through the communications tools available to you in your meetings, whether an email list, text thread, or an announcement after meeting for worship, share with others that you intend to read (or re-read) The Color Purple in advance of the film premier and that you’d like to discuss it with Friends. Propose a few meeting dates and times and see what works best for everyone. Virtual meeting options through Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet usually provide enough flexibility for participants, but it may also be meaningful to meet in person in the same location where worship is held.
You may be interested in expanding the discussion beyond your meeting. Consider reaching out to neighboring religious bodies, civic organizations, social organizations, or fraternal bodies with an interest in The Color Purple. A brief email will suffice, if sent with ample lead time.
NetGalley offers examples of how to structure your book discussion. Remember that worship sharing has a different format than an open discussion for a book. Though it may be quite spiritually grounded, it does not provide for the give and take of a discussion. Therefore, a book discussion group should have a strong moderator who can move the conversation forward, or through pre-established questions. A moderator should also be mindful of microaggressions toward marginalized communities participating in the talk.
The Color Purple deals with sexuality, sexual assault, racism, immigration, and other topics that should be handled with care and thoughtfulness. It is advisable to adopt a method for identifying and addressing unintentional or intentional harm that could occur in this space.
- Racial Wounding and Racial Justice in Quaker Communities
- Oops & Ouch! A way to manage difficult conversations
Book Club Discussion Questions
- General Book Club Questions [Oprah Daily]
- Questions Specific to The Color Purple [Colorado Book Club Resource]
You may also discover that local organizations are already planning their own book club discussions. Consider joining an existing one, such as with Staten Island Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, who has planned a four-meeting series of talks about the novel. Register for that series here.
Discuss the themes of The Color Purple with FGC.
Twenty-five years later, it still puzzles me that The Color Purple is so infrequently discussed as a book about God. About ‘God’ versus ‘the God Image.’Alice Walker
There will be two opportunities to discuss the themes of The Color Purple with the FGC community. These discussions will be led by staff of the Spiritual Deepening Program and the Communications and Outreach Team. Join us on one or both nights of virtual community.
See The Color Purple (2023) in-person with your community.
Now there is a film version of the musical, directed — as no other adaptation has been — by a Black filmmaker, Blitz Bazawule, from a script by a Black screenwriter, Marcus Gardley. And the 2023 movie, due Dec. 25, manages to bring something new to its sweeping story, adding elaborate fantasy sequences that redefine the characters and the feel. It’s now a period drama with a magical realist twist.The New York Times
The Color Purple (2023) will be released on Christmas Day. Many civic, cultural, and fraternal organizations will be organizing group outings to see the film during opening week, and in some cases, will be viewing it early. Films are often best experienced in community with others, where the anticipation, emotion, and indeed Spirit, is palpable. Viewing the film in-person also allows for organic conversations to occur after the film and for new bonds to be forged across communities.
FGC is aware of several outings to see The Color Purple. If there is not already an event planned near you, there are other options:
Plan a private screening with your meeting
Each theater chain has its own procedures for having private events. See the links below, or visit your local theater for details.
Go to a regular showing with family and friends.
Visit MovieFone or your favorite search engine to find out where and when The Color Purple is showing in your area.
Discuss the film with FGC.
“I believe God is everything, say Shug. Everything that is or ever was or ever will be. And when you can feel that, and be happy to feel that, you’ve found it.Celie
Spoiler alert! The Spiritual Deepening Program will host a conversation about the film in early January. See the film by then to maximize your participation.
Deepen the experience!
The great irony about The Color Purple is that it transcends colour. To do that you have to be a magician or a genius. This book works on all levels, the political, the historical, the personal, the emotional, the spiritual…if you are not touched by this book you can’t be touched. Not a word is wasted, every breath is accounted for. We all know that this is one of the greatest books of all time. It’s a no brainer.Benjamin Zephaniah
Visit resources in the menu to the right to deepen your experience of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple in your own way.
- Scholarly articles and essays about The Color Purple
- Alice Walker reading list
- Black women writers reading list
The Silence & Light eRetreat invites you to explore and practice the experience of Quaker worship and silent waiting, for an inward encounter with Inner Teacher who leads, guides, and…
Saturday, December 2nd, 2023 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM
The Ministry on Racism is hosting a weekly virtual Meeting for Worship for white Friends/Friends of European descent confronting racism and white supremacy.
Friday, December 8th, 2023 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
These worships are provided as a place for Friends of Color to come together in community and worship in an environment with Friends who experience marginalization in their lives and Quaker meetings because they are a Person of Color.
Wednesday, December 13th, 2023 1:00 PM