Regardless of age, readers will be inspired by “All About Madam C.J. Walker,” the newest biography about America’s first Black millionaire.
The book, written for fourth- to seventh-graders, is authored by Walker’s great-great-granddaughter A’Lelia Bundles.
Walker, the first in her family to be born free, and her story of creating a successful hair-care business is well-known. But Bundles, a D.C. resident, gives readers a lot more in this classic rags-to-riches story that continues to inspire Black entrepreneurs.
Walker, whose birth name was Sarah Breedlove, goes into adulthood as a washerwoman, gets married, gives birth to her daughter Lelia, then divorces. Like many Black women during that time, she had a problem with properly caring for her hair resulting in scalp irritations. She worked through a variety of formulas that healed her scalp and made hair more manageable.
A second marriage to the savvy businessman C.J. Walker brought forth a marketing and branding strategy that built her business.
“For me, it is not that she became a millionaire, it’s that she used her money and her influence as a philanthropist, as a patron of the arts, and as a social activist,” Bundles said. “What are African Americans doing to contribute to our community? She was about all of those things.”
Walker used her success to give Black women jobs and to help them start businesses. She was a patron of the arts, sponsoring musicians, commissioning artists and other pursuits to uplift the culture. She was also a globally respected business leader.
There are several observances in 2018 that mark the life of Walker, making the release of Bundles’ book very timely. For one, this year marks what would have been Walker’s 150th birthday. Also, 100 years ago, she moved into Villa Lewaro, her opulent estate in Irvington, New York, which is now designated as a national historic landmark.
Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of Walker’s death.
A product line under the name of Madam C.J. Walker Beauty Culture is now two years old and manufactured by Sundial Brands, a subsidiary of Unilever. The relationship with Sundial brings a $100 million venture capital fund for women of color in business, in line with Walker’s vision of supporting female business owners.
This is Bundles’ fourth biography about Walker and her second book written for young readers. At a recent book signing in D.C., city resident Wanda Washington Green came to meet Bundles and bought the new book for her grandchildren.
Green was very clear on why she wanted “All About Madam C.J. Walker.”
“We need heroes in our community,” she said. “Our children need people who look like them to look up to, so they know they can be successful in what they chose to do.”