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Soon to be a Netflix series starring Octavia Spencer, Self Made is the first full-scale biography of “one of the great success stories of American history” (The Philadelphia Inquirer), Madam C.J. Walker—the legendary African American entrepreneur and philanthropist—by her great-great-granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles.
The daughter of slaves, Madam C.J. Walker was orphaned at seven, married at fourteen, and widowed at twenty. She spent the better part of the next two decades laboring as a washerwoman for $1.50 a week. Then—with the discovery of a revolutionary hair care formula for black women—everything changed. By her death in 1919, Walker managed to overcome astonishing odds: building a storied beauty empire from the ground up that would be run by four generations of Walker women until its sale in 1985, amassing wealth unprecedented among black women, and devoting her life to philanthropy and social activism. Along the way, she formed friendships with great twentieth-century political figures such as W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington.
“A’Lelia Bundles always knew, on some level, that this story was hers to tell. And she tells it with a controlled passion and an integrity that would have made Madam Walker proud” (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution). “Well-paced and well-written...as much social history as biography, filled with the detail and texture of culture and politics” (The New York Times), Self Made is enriched by the author’s exclusive access to personal letters, records, and never-before-seen photographs from the family collection. Bundles also showcases Walker’s complex relationship with her daughter, A’Lelia Walker, a celebrated hostess of the Harlem Renaissance and renowned friend to both Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. “More than a history lesson in her rise to fame, On Her Own Ground offers inspiration to women—regardless of race—on how to succeed against all odds” (Chicago Sun-Times).