Interview: Through Books, Descendant Elevates Madam C.J. Walker’s Legacy

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I was doing research for a school project and I learned that Madam C.J. Walker’s great-great granddaughter is a journalist and author of several books about her famous relative. 

One of the books A ‘Lelia Bundles wrote is All About Madam C.J. Walker, which I reviewed this week. (Scroll to the bottom for a picture of some of her other books.)

I am so happy I had a chance to ask her her about researching her famous relative and get tips about writing. I think it’s awesome what she’s doing because her books let me learn a lot more about the person I was on “Wax Museum” day.  We need more people like A’Lelia Bundles spreading news about amazing people like Madam, who changed the way people look at female and black entrepreneurs. Look below for her answers to my questions:

Question: If you could ask your great-great-grandmother three things, what would they be?

Answer:  Who was the person who had the most influence on your decision to move from being a washerwoman to going into business for yourself? What was your unfinished business and what were the goals you hadn’t yet accomplished when you died? What do you remember about your parents?

Q: What is your favorite part about researching things about Madam?

A: I enjoyed reading her letters and interviewing people who knew her. I was glad to learn about her relationships with other women leaders of her time like Mary McLeod Bethune, Ida B. Wells Barnett and Mary Burnett Talbert. I also enjoyed learning about her political activism which included her support of the NAACP’s anti-lynching campaign and hosting events in support of women’s suffrage.

Q: If you were on a deserted island and you could only bring three books with you, what books would you choose?

A: The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois, A collection of African American poetry, The Art of Romare Bearden: The Prevalence of Ritual by Romare Bearden or Posing Beauty by Deborah Willis.

Q: What is the best part about being a journalist?

A: Having the opportunity to be present at historically important moments and being able to preserve those moments for others.

Q: What is your favorite book and why?

I have too many favorite books to pick just one, but The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois had a profound impact on the way I viewed the world when I first read it more than 50 years ago. It helped me understand the beauty and courage of African Americans while also providing a framework for understanding the origins and persistence of racism in American. It remains an influential book.

Q: What tips do you have for future writers?

A: Read a wide range of books and articles on a wide range of topics. History. Science. Art. Music. Politics. Biography.  Stay aware of current events. The best writing is the result of re-writing and editing. Often it takes me ten to 15 rewrites of a book chapter to get just the right words, the right rhythm and the right structure.


Photos Courtesy of A’Lelia Bundles

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