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On Her Own Ground


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About the Author

A'Lelia Bundles, author of On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker, is Walker's biographer and great-great-granddaughter. Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C. J. Walker, the fictional four-part Netflix series inspired by this New York Times Notable Book and starring Octavia Spencer, premiered in the number one slot during its first weekend in 2020. She is chair emerita of the National Archives Foundation and a former ABC News Washington deputy bureau chief. She lives in Washington, DC. Visit her website at ALeliaBundles.com.


TV journalist Bundles (ABC News) delivers the first comprehensive adult biography of Madame C.J. Walker, her great-great-grandmother, who was born Sarah Breedlove on a Louisiana plantation in 1867 and whose name subsequently became synonymous with hair straightening and black wealth. The author dispels the myth that Walker invented the hair-straightening comb and made her money from hair-straightening products for black women, a highly political issue in Walker's time as well as our own. Bundles instead focuses on Walker's impressive philanthropy, her business savvy, and the personal and political motivations that propelled her from washerwoman to cosmetics industry pioneer and legendary African American businesswoman. Walker employed thousands of black women nationwide, zealously donated to organizations that served the black community, and was actively involved in anti-lynching and racial equality campaigns. The book is a solidly researched and well-written historical account of a rags-to-riches experience that exemplifies the American dream. Recommended for all African American history collections. Sherri L. Barnes, Univ. of California Lib., Santa Barbara Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Bundles, the great-great-granddaughter of America's first black woman millionaire, evinces great affection for her famous relative, even if she doesn't overcome a major hurdle: Madam Walker kept her intimate life so private that there's not much to say about it. In the first chapters, Bundles uses a lot of awkward "possibly"s and "perhaps"s as she speculates about her subject's motivations and feelings. Once into the swing of Madam Walker's career, however, Bundles sidesteps the problem by turning social historian, leaving questions of love and sex aside. Walker's trajectory from uneducated washerwoman to hair-care industry magnate becomes the organizing element for a larger mosaic of black life in America, from Reconstruction through the founding of the NAACP in 1909. There's solid business history here, too, as Madam Walker figures out how to make her kitchen industry into a national empire by franchising it. Walker's philanthropy and social consciousness (working for the antilynching and the African anticolonial movements, for example) made her an important powerbroker in the black community. With fascinating details on benevolent and fraternal organizations, urban churches, black colleges, political movements and government surveillance of those involved in them, Bundles takes readers on an engrossing tour of a neglected corner of American history. Agent, Gail Ross. (Feb. 1) Forecast: While this is too densely researched for the average Oprah fan, devotees of social history, women's studies and business narratives will find Bundles's work a treasureƄand find it they will as Bundles goes out on a major nine-city tour. This could easily become a staple in college-level African-American studies classes, and a reading group favorite. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Chicago Sun-Times 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 Tribune It is like finding out the secret sources of your past to read On Her Own Ground, a graceful biography by Walker's great-great-granddaughter....Bundles tells the tale with obvious affection and impressive scholarship....Under Bundles' deft handling, Walker's fable comes up fresh and inspirational. However we dress our hair, because of her, we daughters stand taller on our own ground.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution 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 New York Times Well-paced and well-written...as much social history as biography, filled with the detail and texture of culture and politics.
The Philadelphia Inquirer The life of Madam C.J. Walker is one of the great success stories of American history. The wonder of it is that On Her Own Ground is the first full-blown biography of an amazing woman.
USA Today On Her Own Ground is a fascinating book about a fascinating woman....A wonderful story of an entrepreneur, but also a story about a dedicated African-American woman who was committed to giving her time and money to her community.

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