Archive for February, 2011

Black historians and black history lovers converged in Washington, DC on Saturday, February 26th for the 85th annual ;uncheon of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the organization founded by Carter G. Woodson–the father of black history–in 1915.

Lonnie Bunch, A'LeliaBundles, Tuliza Fleming and John Fleming at the ASALH luncheon in DC (2-26-2011)


  The luncheon always brings out the stars of black history!

We saw Lonnie Bunch (founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture), Tuliza Fleming (NMAAHC curator Apollo exhibit) , John Fleming (former ASALH president/executive producer America I AM), (more…)


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Black History Month has been brimming with living legends!

A'Lelia Bundles and Cheryl Brown Henderson of the Brown v. Board of Education family

This afternoon I had the good fortune to be invited to a luncheon hosted by my homegirl Janet Langhart Cohen in honor of Cheryl Brown Henderson, whose father, Reverend Oliver Brown, and sister Linda Brown, were the named plaintiffs in the landmark  Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case.  Today Cheryl is president of the Brown Foundation for Equity, Excellence and Research, a Topeka, Kansas organization that her website says “serves as a living tribute to the attorneys, community organizers and plaintiffs and builds upon their work to ensure equal opportunity for all people.”

We all are beneficiaries of the courage of her family, the other plaintiffs and the attorneys who argued the case.

(And why are we standing in front of a photo of General Ulysses S. Grant? The luncheon was in the Grant Suite of Washington, DC’s Willard Hotel.)

After seeing my Facebook post about Cheryl Henderson, my good friend and fellow journalist Jack White sent me a link to a 1987 Time magazine piece he’d written about the Brown family’s second challenge to segregated public schools in Topeka. Click here for the original article.

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I’m still feeling the glow of a great weekend in Chicago with old friends and new. The “Heritage of Resistance” symposium at the DuSable Museum where Michelle Duster, Charlene Drew Jarvis, Arthur McFarlane and I talked about our ancestors (Ida B. Wells, Dr. Charles Drew, W.E.B. Du Bois and Madam C. J. Walker) was amazing on so many levels.

Arthur McFarlane, Charlene Drew Jarvis, Zada Johnson, A'Lelia Bundles and Michelle Duster at the DuSable Museum

I’m marvelling at the fewer than six degrees of separation among my fellow panelists. Madam Walker knew and interacted with Du Bois  and Wells, who were founders of the NAACP. Dr. Charles Drew was a star doctoral student at Columbia University during the 1920s (after Walker’s death) and was well-known to the older generation like Wells and Du Bois.

We are ready to take this show on the road to universities, corporations and conferences!

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One of the best parts of writing books for me is the incredible research discoveries. When I started writing On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker, I knew almost nothing of Madam Walker’s childhood and family in Delta, LA during the 1860s and 1870s when she was known as Sarah Breedlove. Recently I visited the National Archives, where I had done some of my early research in the 1980s, and rediscovered some surprising documents from the plantation where she was born.

I love the National Archives because records from every American family can be found there. Census records. Military documents. Marriage licenses. And more. I’m proud to be a member of the board of the Foundation for the National Archives and invite you to visit the website and the exhibits there.

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At the DuSable: A'Lelia Bundles joins other descendants of accomplished African Americans

Join us at the DuSable Museum in Chicago on Friday, February 18 at 5:30 p.m. as A’Lelia Bundles, Michelle Duster, Charlene Drew Jarvis and Arthur McFarlane discuss their accomplished ancestors Madam C. J. Walker, Ida B. Wells, Dr. Charles Drew and W.E.B. DuBois in conjunction with the exhibit “Let Your Motto Be Resistance.”

More details at the DuSable Museum website and on A’Lelia’s calendar.

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Photos from the Madam Walker/A'Lelia Walker Family Archives

Doing the research about the women in my family brings many incredibly serendipitous moments. Last fall out of the blue I received a call from a gentleman who had purchased these photos at an auction. My best guess is that they had been left behind in a dresser that once had belonged to my grandmother, Mae Walker Perry. I actually already had all of the photos except one, but it was lovely to know the universe is sending things my way.

The group of photos includes R. E. Mercer’s fantastic images of Walker beauty culturists at the 1924 convention at Villa Lewaro; Libert Lezama (one of the groomsmen in my grandmother’s 1923 wedding); my grandmother’s 1923 wedding photo from her marriage to her first husband, Dr. Gordon Jackson; A’Lelia Walker (my great-grandmother and daughter of Madam C.J. Walker) in the music room of Villa Lewaro; my uncle Walker Gordon (née Jackson) Perry, my grandmother’s child from her first marriage. I had never seen this baby photo of my uncle. He was a red-head and now I can see him as a toddler.

Our Madam Walker/A’Lelia Walker Family Archives is the largest privately owned collection of photographs, Walker Company business records, letters, advertisements, clothing, furniture and other personal Walker artifacts. We are proud to share images and information with students, media and museums.

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View the video: HGTV Villa Lewaro Documentary

In celebration of the United Negro College Fund’s 1998 Designer Showhouse at Villa Lewaro, Madam C. J. Walker’s Irvington-on-Hudson, NY estate, HGTV produced this hour documentary. If you have a few million dollars, the house currently is on the market. (www.madamwalkerestate.com)

1924 Convention of the Madam Walker Beauty Culturists Union

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