We are overcoming decades of erasure of who we really are in telling our history.
As the descendant of two pioneers in Black history, A’Lelia Bundles says that she is honored to be the one to share the history of her great-great-grandmother Madam C.J. Walker.
“She is one of literally thousands of amazing people whose stories we need to hear,” said Bundles of her great-great-grandmother, Madam C.J. Walker — the first Black woman to become a millionaire in America.
For years the history books in school have led people to believe that Madam C.J. Walker invented the hot comb. However, thanks to women like Bundles who are committed to sharing the facts, we learn that her story was much much more.
“By the time that she died at 51-years-old, she was a millionaire who had become a pioneer of the modern hair care industry, employed thousands of women, and used her money and influence as a philanthropist, a patron of the arts, and a political activist,” Bundles told AfroTech.
Bundles also shared how her great-great-grandmother was also a visionary way ahead of her time when it came to technology.
“Many people focus on the fact that she was an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and so forth, but what they don’t talk about is that she was always ahead of her time when it came to technology,” shared Bundles. “She had an electric car, a Waverly Electric, in 1913 so essentially she owned a Tesla before it was a Tesla!”
Bundles also shared that Madam C.J. Walker was even using PowerPoint before computers had even been invented.
“She made presentations using something called a stereopticon, an early version of PowerPoint, where she had glass slides of her company, Black businesses, and Black schools that she would project using an electric projector,” chimed Bundles. “Madam C.J. Walker would do lectures all over the country and would bring people together before there were even movie theaters, television and certainly before the Internet.”
Madam C.J. Walker, Bundles shares, was also innovative in the way that she trained other women to be successful.
“She motivated them, taught them about keeping good books, keeping good financial records, and how to treat their customers,” Bundles shared with AfroTech. “She was very much ahead of her time in technology, management, and marketing. She had a vision of all of the things that really still work today.”
She continued: “We have been doing this for much more than a century, and I like to be able to expose people to that because when we truly understand what our ancestors went through when it was very difficult to even survive, that should give us courage.”
When Bundles says “courage,” she means the courage Madam C.J. Walker’s daughter, and her great-grandmother, A’Lelia Walker truly had!
A central figure of the Harlem Renaissance and the first Black heiress having inherited her mother’s homes, leadership, and company, Bundles is currently working to tell the story of her namesake and great grandmother, A’Lelia Walker.
“I am currently writing a book titled ‘The Joy Goddess of Harlem,’ a nickname given to her during the Harlem Renaissance, that explores the life of A’Lelia Walker.”
Today, Bundles is working to erase some of the history of A’Lelia Walker that she says much like with Madam C.J. Walker, the world has gotten wrong.