Kara Walker was born in Stockton, California, and grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. She graduated from the Atlanta College of Art in 1991 and received her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1994. Her major survey show, Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love, premiered at the The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, in February 2007 before traveling to ARC/Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; and the Museum of Modern Art, Fort Worth.

Her work is included in numerous museums and public collections, including The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and Tate, London. Walker lives and works in New York City.