Just imagine being the daughter of the first Black millionaire, or first female millionaire for that matter... well such was the case for famed Harlemite A'Lelia Walker, daughter of Madam C.J. Walker.
(Madam C.J. Walker)
Keeping in step with Black History Month, we chose to spotlight the younger Walker, because her story is often times untold, yet it is one of the most important Black stories of the 20th century.
A'Lelia Walker became the inheritor of not just millions of dollars (when her mother passed away), but she also inherited the legacy that Madam C.J. Walker left behind. It goes without saying, that the elder Walker formed her own haircare business for women of color, at a time when there was no such industry and Black women had to fend for themselves -literally, in the world and in the beauty department. During the early 19th century, segregation and racism was omnipresent, and Black people were considered less than beautiful, not to mention less than human, but Madam C.J. Walker changed the game with her intuitiveness to help her fellow brethren.
She formed the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company to sell hair care products and cosmetics, and The Guinness Book of Records cites Walker as the first "female" who became a millionaire by her own achievements.
After Madam C.J. Walker's death in 1919, her daughter carried on the tradition of hospitality; opening her home to writers and artists of the emergent Harlem Renaissance.
A'Lelia was dubbed the "Mahogany Millionairess," because of her lavish lifestyle and love for the arts. She travelled the world and became a famous business woman who was a driving force behind the Harlem Renaissance. At the height of the movement, she converted a floor of her 136th Street townhouse near Lenox Avenue (which was designed by Paul Frankl), into "The Dark Tower," an underground literary scene for notable artisans such as Zora Neale Hurston, Carl Van Vechten, and Langston Hughes; Hughes even called her the "joy goddess of Harlem's 1920s," because of her societal influence.
She entertained at her townhouse as well as at Villa Lewaro, a Westchester County, Irvington-on-Hudson property, that her mother owned and named after her. Italian tenor Enrico Caruso suggested that the home be named after her (LE-lia WA-lker RO-binson), because it reminded him of homes in his native country; A'Lelia also entertained at her pied-a-terre at 80 Edgecomb Avenue in Harlem.
Due to the enormity of her contributions to the Renaissance, it's only right that we share her information with the world... because there were, and are a number of Blacks who have either made or inherited millions of dollars and their accomplishments should never go unknown.
* She had no biological children, but in 1912, legally adopted Mae Bryant (1898-1945), who became known as Mae Walker. In November 1923, A'Lelia Walker orchestrated an elaborate "Million Dollar Wedding" for Mae's marriage to Dr. Gordon Jackson. Mae Walker, a graduate of Spelman Seminary in Atlanta, divorced Jackson in 1926 and married Attorney Marion R. Perry in September 1927.
She was named president of the Madam C.J. Walker Company in 1931 after her mother's death. Mae Walker Perry was president of the company from 1931 until her death in 1945. Her daughter, A'Lelia Mae Perry Bundles (1928-1976), succeeded her mother as president of the company.
A'Lelia Walker's great-granddaughter, author A'Lelia Perry Bundles (1952- ) is Walker's biographer and author of On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker' ' a New York Times Notable Book and recipient of the Letitia Woods Brown Book Prize from the Association of Black Women Historians. Bundles, a former producer with NBC News and ABC News and an executive with ABC News, is at work on the first major biography of A'Lelia Walker.
* Information taken from www.wikipedia.org, www.beinecke.library.yale.edu