One of the most compelling and inspiring American entrepreneurship stories is that of Madam C. J. Walker. The first Black woman millionaire in America, she was the first person in her family to be born free in 1867 just after Emancipation Proclamation. She rose from washerwoman to international entrepreneur before any woman even had the right to vote. To think about how incredible that achievement was is a testament to Madam Walker’s determination and ability to both inspire and empower others.
Madam Walker made her fortune creating a hair care product that she and others needed, but the product became a conduit for something much more significant and transformational for many women of color in her generation: it gave them financial independence.
Today, we’re sitting down with Madam Walker’s great, great granddaughter — journalist, author and historian A’Lelia Bundles. A’Lelia is joining me as part of our Women’s History Month series.
In addition to the incredible leadership lessons we draw from Madam Walker’s story in this episode, A’Lelia’s story is also powerful. In 2020, Netflix released a mini series called “Self Made,” starring Octavia Spencer and Blair Underwood. The series is loosely based on A’Lelia’s book about Madam Walker: “On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker.” (A’Lelia book is a wonderful read, and I highly recommend it!) The Netflix series, however, fictionalizes key aspects of Madam Walker’s story and disregards A’Lelia’s life-long dedication and carefully researched history of her family. I was struck by how A’Lelia responded to this heartbreaking disappointment, and how she dealt with it.
There are so many valuable lessons packed into this episode. I’m excited for you to hear it, and would love to know your thoughts.
Remember, if you are listening to this episode on your phone, please be sure to share a screen shot to your Instagram and FB stories and tag me @LauraCoxKaplan. And, if you have a couple of extra minutes, I would love a review on Itunes. I’m grateful you joined us today… I’ll see you next week! Take care!