Lyric Tenor Roland Hayes’s January 1924 Chicago Concert

Roland Hayes 1924 Chicago Concert (Madam Walker Family Archives of A'Lelia Bundles/

I learned to read music on a Chickering baby grand piano that had belonged to my great-grandmother, A’Lelia Walker, but it really was my mother, A’Lelia Mae Perry Bundles, and my grandmother, Mae Walker Perry, who had musical talent. As the only legally adopted daughter of A’Lelia Walker and granddaughter of entrepreneur Madam C. J. Walker, Mae had been afforded many privileges, including harp lessons and enrollment at Spelman College.

Several years ago, I discovered this  program from lyric tenor Roland Hayes’s January 15, 1924 program at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall among Mae’s personal belongings. It now is part of  my Madam Walker/A’Lelia Walker Family Archives. At the time of the concert, Mae recently had moved to Chicago. Like others in the city’s black community, she had looked forward to hearing Hayes sing selections–including Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” black British composer (more…)

A’Lelia Walker’s Sterling Silver Flask

A'Lelia Walker's Sterling Silver Flask (from the Madam Walker/A'Lelia Walker Family Archives of A'Lelia Bundles

Now that I’m into the serious writing phase of my new biography of A’Lelia Walker (1885-1931), my great-grandmother and the only daughter of entrepreneur and philanthropist Madam C. J. Walker, I’ll be posting more stories about the discoveries I’ve been making.

I’m truly fortunate to have inherited a trove of letters, clothes, furniture and other personal items that belonged to the Walker women. Among them is this flask.

A’Lelia Walker rarely missed a Howard-Lincoln football game between 1918 and 1931. This rivalry –as legendary among African Americans as the Harvard-Yale competition was to Ivy Leaguers–brought thousands of alumni and friends together each Thanksgiving Day, alternating between Philadelphia (the closest big city to Lincoln’s rural Pennsylvania campus) and Washington, DC. (more…)

Happy Birthday, A’Lelia Walker! (June 6, 1885)

My great-grandmother and namesake, A’Lelia Walker (1885-1931), loved getting flowers on her birthday! Orchids. Dahlias. Gladiolas. Roses.

A'Lelia Walker loved flowers! Orchids. Gladiolas. Dahlias. Roses (From the Madam Walker Family Archives of A'Lelia Bundles)

She had everything else–houses, diamonds, furs, cars–plus great friends, a gregarious spirit and a love of life. Well, almost everything, but you’ll have to wait for my new book, Joy Goddess, to learn the rest of the story!

In fact, I’ve been working so hard on the book, that I’d actually forgotten today was her birthday until my good friend, Janet Sims-Wood, posted a story on Facebook noting that today also is the birthday of Portia Washington Pittman, Booker T. Washington’s only daughter. Heavens, I thought, when I read that. Both of these daughters of larger than life figures not only shared the pressure and expectations of others, but also a birthday! That gives me even more to ponder as I write about how A’Lelia Walker handled being Madam C. J. Walker’s daughter. (more…)

Watoto from the Nile’s “Letter to Lil Wayne” Makes My Day

When you write for a living, you never know where your words will land. You always hope your messages will make a difference, but there’s no guarantee. Yesterday was one of those days that made it all worthwhile.

I’d heard earlier this year about the smart young sisters of Watoto from the Nile, who had challenged Lil Wayne to clean up his misogynistic act, but with so much Internet overload I’d never gotten around to viewing it. Imagine my surprise when (more…)