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Madam CJ Walker’s Legacy

Black Beauty Pioneers, Black History Month 2015, Cosmetology Industry, Instagram, Madame CJ Walker, Nail Technician, Omaha Nebraska, Philanthropist

Hey Beauties;

Welcome back to TNP Loves Nails Beauty blog glad you can join me today.

Today, this blog is about the life and legacy of Madam CJ Walker today.

Sarah Breedlove (December 23, 1867 – May 25, 1919), known as Madam C. J. Walker, was an American entrepreneur and philanthropist, regarded as the first female self-made millionaire in America. She made her fortune by developing and marketing a successful line of beauty and hair products for black women under the company she founded, Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company.

I will be interviewing A’Lelia Bundles great-great granddaughter of Madam C.J. Walker. Who have a legacy of her own. A’Lelia is a well-known best selling author, blogger, journalist, and so much more. Interview below… Enjoy!


°Madam CJ Walker’s Legacy

-How did Madam CJ Walker’s Legacy affect your life?

​     It’s a great privilege to be able to share Madam C. J. Walker’s story and to know that she still has the power to inspire others.​ ​I’m grateful that my parents encouraged me to follow my passion to to become a writer and that I was able to have a long career as a journalist. My thirty years as a producer and executive for NBC News and ABC News helped prepare me to be Madam Walker’s biographer and to have skills that now allow me to be an advocate for her and other women.​

-What would you like people to know about Madam CJ Walker’s life we may not know about?

​     I hope that people who know a little about Madam C. J. Walker already will begin to see her as a multidimensional person. It’s important to know that she was a pioneer of the modern hair care industry, but I find it even more interesting that she used her good fortune from her business as a philanthropist, patron of the arts and political activist who also provided employment for women. So, for me, it’s not just about hair or even primarily about hair–important as that still is to us–it’s about her transformation from a poor, uneducated washerwoman to an entrepreneur who empowered and enriched others.​

-Did Madam Walker invent and patent the hot comb?

​   No. No. No. Madam Walker did NOT invent the hot comb. She did NOT patent a hot comb. She purchased her hot combs from a supplier.​ ​Heated metal hair care implements were being used decades before Madam Walker was born.​

-How will you make sure that the next generation of your family will keep Madam Walker’s Legacy alive?

​    I created the Madam Walker Family Archives as a way to ensure that Madam Walker’s story will continue to be told. I’ve already written three books about Madam Walker
  Madam C. J. Walker: Entrepreneur (a young adult biography)
On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker (the first truly comprehensive, nonfiction biography of her​ was named a New York Times Notable Book in 2001 and the Best Book on Black Women’s History 2001 by the Association of Black Women Historians.)​
Madam Walker Theatre Center: An Indianapolis Treasure (a pictorial history that includes more than 200 photographs of Madam Walker, her business, employees, advertisements and the current activities at the MWTC)

I served for many years on the board of the Madam Walker Theatre Center, an arts education and cultural performance venue, in Indianapolis. I am a board member emeritus of this National Historic Landmark, which was the headquarters of the Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company for several decades.

​I am working with the National Trust for Historic Preservation in its initiative to re-imagine the future of  Villa Lewaro, another National Historic Landmark and the home Madam Walker built in Irvington, NY in 1918. It recently was named a National Treausure by the NTHP. Here’s an article http://bit.ly/16UAaok

I make at least 20 to 30 speeches every year about Madam Walker. You can see the speaking schedule on my website (www.aleliabundles.com)

I have donated items from my Madam Walker Family Archives to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, which will open in late 2015 or early 2016. I also have loaned items to other museum exhibits through the years.

  I maintain the official Madam Walker website and regularly post items on several Madam Walker Facebook pages.​ Through these platforms I assist students with their National History Day projects.

Several years ago, our family and the Walker trustees donated the Madam Walker Collection of personal and business records to the Indiana Historical Society. It is a rich trove of material which allows scholars to document Madam Walker’s accomplishments in a way that is rare for most other  early twentieth century businesses owned by women and African Americans.

I am now writing the first major biography of Madam Walker’s daughter, A’Lelia Walker, and will be able to add a great deal more to the public record about the lives of these two extraordinary women.

Through the Madam Walker Family Archives, I preserve and maintain hundreds of photographs and thousands of documents related to the Walker women. I regularly share these photographs with publishers, newspapers, students and scholars. I will eventually donate those items to the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University, my alma mater.

°Black Hair Then & Now

-In the 1900’s Black Women were transitioning from braids to straighten hair, today’s trend in black hair is natural. Why do you think black women are going natural?

I think black women have been on a long trajectory of learning to appreciate our natural beauty. The pendulum swings back and forth every decade or so, but more and more women are comfortable with natural hair.

As we have evolved, products that make caring for and styling natural hair have evolved. A century ago when Madam Walker was at the helm of her business, her ideas were revolutionary for her times. But since that time we’ve learned that our hair needs moisture more than it needs the heavy ointments that our grandmothers and great-grandmothers used.

I do think it’s important for us to remember that Madam Walker’s initial concern was addressing the dandruff and severe scalp disease that was causing her to go bald. She was more concerned about having hair period than about straightening her hair. Her real push was to encourage women to wash their hair more often so their scalps would be clean. Once clean, she applied an ointment that contained sulphur because that cured the sores and scalp disease.

Madam Walker herself spoke about this concern and said she was interested in her customers having healthy hair.​

-Are you natural if so, what is your favorite natural hairstyle?

​  My hair is natural. Like most women my age, I’ve had almost all the hairstyles possible from permed and long to very short and natural, except weaves, which I personally am not interested in having. For most of the last twenty years, I wore my hair in a short natural. I’ve been letting it grow for the last few years because I like the gray that is coming in.​

-Do you have any natural hair tips?

​  Everyone’s hair texture is different. What works for me may not work for someone else. I can only say what works for me. Wash and condition your hair regularly. Experiment with different products. Moisturize.​ ​Become acquainted with you hair and how it responds to products, to the weather, to the seasons.​

-Do you have any advice you would like to pass onto the cosmetology industry what would it be?

​    I just hope that today’s cosmetologists would find some inspiration in Madam Walker and like her, see the importance of giving back to their communities and being leaders.

In your own words what’s the key to success?

​   When people asked Madam Walker the key to her success, here’s what she would say: “There is no royal, flower strewn path to success and if there is I have not found it. For whatever success I have attained, has been the result of much hard work and many sleepless nights. I got my start by giving myself a start. So don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. You have to get up and make them for yourself!”

   In addition to that I would add that I think it is important to stay aware of current events and politics, to pay it forward, to keep abreast of all the new social media platforms, to mentor others and to cultivate friendships.


I am very honored that Ms. A’Lelia Bundles took this time out of her busy schedule todo this interview

Follow Ms. A’Lelia Bundles on instagram and read her informative blog called Black Hair Historian.

Thanks for taking your time to read my blog today. I will be blogging tomorrow. May God bless you all. Good night and stay tuned to TNP Loves Nails Beauty Blog.

Sincerely, Talia