The Color Purple superfans have a lot to get excited about this year: the 40th anniversary of the novel’s Pulitzer Prize win, the new Color Purple film, and the release of Purple Rising, a book featuring original interviews with Oprah, Fantasia Barrino, Taraji P. Henson, and dozens more. Purple Rising is a celebration of the enormous impact of The Color Purple in all its forms—a novel, a play, a movie, and a “cultural touchstone.” How do you represent the legacy of the story—in all its incarnations—with a single image? That was the question artist Jamea Richmond-Edwards had to face when she was asked to design the cover for the book.

Richmond-Edwards is an interdisciplinary artist who has exhibited her work, which often deals with representations of Black womanhood, nationally and internationally, including at the Delaware Art Museum, California African American Museum, and Kravets Wehby Gallery. She sees the cover design as a way to “pay tribute” to a story that has impacted her since childhood. “Honestly,” she confesses, “I felt like I’ve been patiently waiting for this opportunity.”

But with that opportunity came challenges. “For this project to be associated with Oprah came with a lot of pressure,” she explains. “But I understood the assignment and put my everything into the cover.”

Richmond-Edwards decided to center the artwork around the front porch, which “played an essential role in film and in print”; it’s a “place for deep introspection but also a communal place where pivotal interactions happened.” Crucially, the porch is also immersed in the natural world, which felt very important to Richmond-Edwards, as “metaphorically, nature represents freedom, spiritual transformation, and our connection to something greater than ourselves.” She wanted the entire artwork to be “a snapshot of Celie’s ascension,” and images of nature, including a hidden serpent winding up the mailbox and poking its head out of the tree, helped capture that rise. “The serpent is an ancient motif found globally in architecture, pottery, and earthen works,” the artist says. “I utilize it in my work as a symbol of resurrection and as a way to connect me to my ancient ancestry.”

It was also important that the cover be vibrant and energetic in order to capture the “essence of the era” in which the novel takes place as well as the “freedom and agency” infused into each of the characters. “My intention for the cover is for it to feel like precious fine art, akin to a talisman, that embodies the rich and timeless legacy of The Color Purple,” she says.

From start to finish, it took Richmond-Edwards a little over month to produce the stunning cover art. You can watch the progress of the work in the video below. Purple Rising will be published on November 7, 2023.

preview for Purple Rising
Lettermark
Charley Burlock
Associate Books Editor

Charley is a Books Editor at Oprah Daily where she writes about authors, writing, and reading. She is also a freelance writer and audio journalist whose work has been featured in the Atlantic, the Los Angeles Review, Agni, and on the Apple News Today podcast. She is currently completing an MFA in creative nonfiction at NYU and working on an essay collection about the intersection of grief, landscape, and urban design.