- A’Lelia Walker–charismatic, statuesque and stylish–posed for many of the most noted Harlem Renaissance photographers and sculptors, including Richmond Barthe, Augusta Savage, James Van Der Zee, James Latimer Allen and R. E. Mercer.
- She also sat for Greenwich Village resident, Berenice Abbott (1898-1991), one of the premiere photographers of the 20th century and a protegee of Man Ray. Perhaps best known for her dramatic black-and-white photographs of New York City architecture during the 1930s, Abbott also was an accomplished portrait photographer.
Sylvia Beach, the American owner of Paris’s Shakespeare and Company Bookstore, once said, “To be ‘done’ by Man Ray or Berenice Abbott meant you rated as somebody.”
- By 1930, when I believe these photos were taken, A’Lelia Walker–as the daughter of entrepreneur Madam C. J. Walker and as the hostess of The Dark Tower, one of the most iconic gathering places of the Harlem Renaissance–certainly was “somebody.”
Several years ago, as I was looking through my Madam Walker Family Archives, I realized that one of the necklaces my grandparents had saved matched the jewelry in the Abbott photograph. I’d originally found the piece in my mother’s jewelry box and wore it during the 1960s and 1970s, because it fit so well with the hippie fashion of the times. At the time, I had no idea of its significance or that it had belonged to my great-grandmother and namesake.