Kara Walker was born in 1969 in Stockton, California. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Painting/Printmaking from the Atlanta College of Art in 1991 and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Painting/Printmaking from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1994.
In 1997, Walker was a recipient of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Achievement Award. She was also the United States representative to the 2002 Sao Paolo Bienal in Brazil. Currently, Walker lives in New York where she is on the faculty of the Masters of Fine Arts Program at Columbia University.