Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Harlem's 136th Street
Renamed for Madam C. J. Walker

Residence: 108-10 West 136th Street (Demolished)

The daughter of slaves, who was born in 1867, is widely considered the nation's first female African-American millionaire. Walker earned renown for her business savvy, her philanthropy - and her socialite daughter, a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance.

The two generations of Walker women shared a W. 136th St. street sign after a City Hall ceremony renaming a Harlem block in their honor.

"I'm absolutely delighted that young people will turn the corner, see the sign and begin to ask questions about who those women were," said A'Lelia Bundles, Madam Walker's great-granddaughter.

Madam C.J. Walker, born in rural Louisiana, was destined to leave her mark on the world - mostly through her own hard work. She was orphaned at age 7, married at 14 and once worked for as little as $1.50 a day.

She made her fortune peddling her own brand of hair care products, establishing an Indianapolis factory in 1910. In 1913, she hired an African-American architect to construct a townhouse on W. 136th St. in Harlem.

After Walker's death six years later, her daughter and only child, A'Lelia, converted a floor of the home into a salon known as "The Dark Tower" - a gathering spot for uptown luminaries including W.E.B. DuBois and Langston Hughes.

The building was torn down in the '40s, but the street sign will offer a reminder of its presence and importance.

"For me, the street-naming is important because Madam Walker represents all the entrepreneurial possibility and political consciousness," said her great-granddaughter.

"And A'Lelia, because of her role in the Harlem Renaissance, will help people talk about all the cultural contributions of African-Americans."

For Jacob Morris, the historian who promoted the mother-daughter team for the sign, honoring one without the other was unthinkable.

"When Madam C.J. died, A'Lelia became the main patroness for the Harlem Renaissance," Morris explained. "She's underappreciated by history, which is one of my main motivations - people with a lot of significance who don't receive the credit."

McShane - NY Daily News


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just wanted to inform you and your readers of this very important fact – Madame C.J. Walker’s historic company still exists today and has never stopped manufacturing all of the original hair oils! Anyone who visits our website at can view and purchase the full product line. The website also contains valuable information about the stock/asset sale and Raymond Randolph’s purchase of the original Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company in 1985 from the Walker Trustees in Indianapolis, Indiana and how his family continues to keep Madame Walker’s “true” legacy alive. Due to our ownership of Madame’s historic company and the historical documents and memorabilia of the company, the Randolph Family can provide the most detailed and historically sound information about Madame C.J. Walker and her company by calling toll free, 866-552-2838 or going to the contact us page of our website. 

Angela Randolph

6:15 PM  
Blogger A'Lelia said...

Thanks so much for highlighting Madam C. J. Walker on the anniversary of her birth. As her great-great-granddaughter and biographer, it is a joy to share her legacy with others through our books, through our work with the Walker Theatre Center (a 1927 National Historic Landmark in Indianapolis) and through our Madam Walker/A'Lelia Walker Family Archives (the largest private collection of Walker photos, business records, personal letters, clothing, furniture and memorabilia). As we plan the sign unveiling ceremony for the renaming of the block of 136th Street between Malcolm X and Seventh Avenue, I invited anyone interested in participating to contact me at
A'Lelia Bundles
Author, On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker

3:52 PM  

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