February 25, 2011

Celebrating Black History Month - Madam C.J. Walker

Madam C.J. Walker

Business woman, and philanthropist, Madam C.J. Walker is truly one of my inspirations, not only did she rise from the cotton fields in the south to start her own hair business, but she gave back to her community as well.

"I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South. From there I was promoted to the washtub. From there I was promoted to the cook kitchen. And from there I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods and preparations….I have built my own factory on my own ground." Madam Walker, National Negro Business League Convention.

"On Her Own Ground, The Life and Times of Madam CJ Walker" was written by her great-great granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles. It reads like an African American history book, packed with historical figures, dates and events. It is a very inspirational biography and one that I think should be a part of everyone's personal library.

The book describes the interactions Madam C.J. Walker had with other historical figures, such as Booker T. Washington, Mary McLeod Bethune, Paul Laurence Dunbar, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Nannie Helen Burroughs.

It also details her numerous contributions to organizations such as the YMCA, YWCA, NAACP, and numerous educational institutions such as the Tuskegee and Daytona Normal and Industrial Institutes.

I had the opportunity to interview A’Lelia Bundles and she had this to say about her great-great grandmother.

"I hope people will remember that Madam Walker’s business success is only part of her legacy. That she became a millionaire is, of course, noteworthy, but that she used her wealth and influence as a philanthropist, political activist and advocate for women’s economic independence really is what makes her worth remembering."

"Even then, her focus was on healthy hair and healing the scalp disease that was so rampant at the time …. I know many people still associate her primarily with hair straightening, but if they really examine the record – looking at her original ads, her letters, the products she and the Walker Company actually sold before her death in 1919 – I believe their interpretation would be different," she added.

This goes along with a quote from Madam C.J. Walker, from the book. "Right here let me correct the erroneous impression held by some that I claim to straighten hair," she told the Indianapolis Recorder. "I deplore such impression because I have always held myself out as a hair culturist. I grow hair."

Check out this video of A’Lelia Bundles, talking about Madam C.J. Walker and the discoveries she made about her great-great grandmother at the National Archives…

More information

YouTube Video - The Citizen TAG - The Legacy of Madam Walker Part 1

YouTube Video - The Citizen TAG - The Legacy of Madam Walker Part 2


Unknown said...

OMG! Laquita, I love this post. I've heard of Madam C.J. Walker but the video & other info provided gave me a peek of the person she was. Thanks for posting this. I am so sharing it.

A'Lelia said...

You know I so appreciate you and the work that you do to celebrate and lift up sistahs. Thank you very much for featuring Madam Walker and letting your readers know her story.
Warmest wishes,
A'Lelia Bundles

Laquita said...

@KeeKee Thanks and thanks for sharing. You should also read the book it is great :o)

@A'Lelia - Thanks - she is my inspiration :o)

EDOKA said...

This is a great post. I'm happy that you acknowledged such a boundary breaker. Thank you.