A’Lelia Bundles is calling on followers of Madam CJ Walker to get behind an honorary Congressional bill that would pay homage to the entrepreneurial achievements of her great-great-grandmother.
The bill, H.J. Res. 81, was introduced to Congress by Rep. Charles Rangel, a Democrat from New York’s 15th District. The move to formally recognize the achievements of Madam CJ Walker comes as interest in her legacy continues to grow.
As America’s first African American millionaire, Madam Walker was responsible for creating one of the first nationally distributed lines of hair care products for black women.
Yet there was a dark side to her early life. She was orphaned at the age of 7 and widowed by age 20, becoming a single mother.
Madam Walker was determined to make her daughter’s life better, says Ms Bundles.
“She was a very resilient person because she had such a difficult early life.”
As her great-great-granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles said it took her decades of personal experience to finally become interested in writing about Madam Walker.
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Ms Bundles developed an ironic resistance to her great-great-grandmother’s legacy from a young age, growing a large “Angela Davis” afro.
“I wanted a big afro,” she said, laughing. “My mother took me to the Madam CJ Walker Beauty Salon and they have me a big afro.”
Eventually a college professor insisted that Ms Bundles pursue the story of Madam CJ Walker in a course paper. This sparked a series of events, including the release of a stamp series featuring Madam Walker in 1998, and then the publication of Ms Bundles’ 2002 biography, ‘On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker.’
Ms Bundles said the publication of the biography of her great-great-grandmother was an opportunity for the world to learn of a real person whose character and life story was much more than that of just a millionaire businesswoman.
But the biography has also had an immense impact on the life of Ms Bundles.
“Seeing how much she inspires other women has really shaped this part of my career,” she said. “It’s become my second career.”
Ms Bundles had previously worked for over 30 years in the mainstream media industry, including holding various positions in recruiting, producing and reporting at ABC and NBC.
In recent years, Ms Bundles has been invited to deliver speeches in London and Jerusalem, and has also shared her stories with audience ranging from the women of Bedford Hills Correctional Facility to the students of the Harvard Business School. She said the reason why Madam CJ Walker’s legacy applies in these settings is because her story is “relevant and inspirational” to many types of women.
Ms Bundles is now in the process of writing another biography about her great-grandmother, the daughter of Madam CJ Walker, A’Lelia Walker. She hopes to recreate an unexplored scene from the Harlem Renaissance, a movement with which A’Leila Walker was intimately involved.
But Ms. Bundles is also currently focused on helping increase awareness of the Congressional bill to honor her great-great-grandmother.
She recommends that if you are interested in supporting the bill you write to your Congressional representative stating your support. There is currently a Facebook page dedicated to the bill and you can also read more about it on the GovTrack website.